Auto Insurance

Ontario Drivers: The Winter Tire Discount Isn't a Scam

By: Rebecca Lee on November 9, 2015
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Winter tires aren’t a sexy topic, but thanks to Ontario’s recent insurance discount, we’re all talking about tires anyway. Yes, I’m looking at you, Facebook users. So we might as well have a serious tire talk.

Let’s start with a recap: the Ministry of Finance recently announced that all Ontario insurance companies will have to offer a winter tire discount starting in 2016. Sounds good. But a lot of drivers are still skeptical about the value of winter tires. So with the words of an expert and a dash of research, I’m going to unleash some perspective.

What you need to know about the winter tire discount

This list is your cheat sheet for everything related to the winter tire discount. And don’t worry, I consulted with insurance expert Steven Moro from LowestRates Insurance Brokers Inc. to get the right details.

  • The winter tire discount isn’t new to Ontario -- it just becomes mandatory in 2016
  • Right now, the discount goes up to 5%
  • The discount is only for winter tires, so other tire types need not apply
  • You need to install four winter tires, not just one (which would be weird) or two, to get the discount
  • Your winter tires have to be on between November and April (approximately)
  • You need to hold on to your winter tire receipt in case you need to make a claim later

Yes, you will save money with winter tires

This part’s for the money-minded. I asked Moro to respond to concern that winter tires are a scam. Because he knows we want to see the numbers, Moro shared a savings formula with me.

According to 2012 averages, Ontario car insurance costs about $1,500/year. Let’s say that average is now closer to $2000 and your winter tire discount is 5%. You’re going reap an annual discount of $100. The average cost of one winter tire is also $100. Do you see where I’m going?

Cost of 4 winter tires: $400

Returns from winter tire discount: $100/year x 4 winter seasons = $400

Average life expectancy of winter tires = 5 years

No, the discount won’t cut your premium in half. But in four years, you break even on that initial purchase. After five years, you make profit when you use the winter tire discount. And your winter tires might last longer than 5 years depending on your driving. Also important: swapping between two sets of tires, regular and winter, stretches the life of both so you’re buying new tires less frequently.

Winter tires protect your safety

Savings aside, winter tires help you navigate icy roads without skids, slips, and accidents. Once temperatures plunge below 7°C, regular tires harden and can’t properly grip the road. But winter tires are designed with a special, more flexible rubber compound that allows you to safely brake -- even when it’s -30°C outside.

Then there’s all-weather tires -- aka jacked up all-season tires. I asked Moro for his thoughts on all-weather tires. He didn’t have expert insight, but he had a great analogy. He said, “Would you wear an all-weather jacket in the winter? You’ll be very warm in the summer and okay in the fall, but in -25°C temperatures, that all-weather jacket is basically useless.”

So yes, all-weather tires offer an option. If you don’t want an insurance discount and you’re not worried about extreme weather. But oh wait. You and I live in Ontario, land of the blizzards, ice storms, and extreme cold alerts. Are you sure you don’t want winter tires?

Safety first, discount second

Winter tires are an added expense to the already pricey Ontario driving lifestyle. Can’t argue that. But winter tires are also proven to brake faster, helping you avoid collisions on cold, slippery roads. I’d say, the safety benefits of winter tires already validate the cost. The discount is just another bonus. 

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