Are all-weather tires as effective as winter tires“, “Do I need winter tires in Alberta” and “How do I decide whether I need snow tires” are questions I’ve heard hundreds of times during my time working at Canada Tire Pro.

A very common dilemma customers face when they come to purchase new tires is whether to buy a dedicated set of winter tires, or whether to opt for all-weather tires that can be used year-round.

In this quick five-minute read, I’ll outline my usual response and hopefully you’ll be able to decide which option is best for you.

[Before reading on, if you haven’t yet read about the difference between all-season v all-weather v winter tires, I’d recommend you do that first].

What are all-weather tires?

All-weather tires are all-season tires that also display the three peak mountain snowflake symbol. This symbol means the tire has been tested for acceleration on hard compact snow and will give you more traction in snow and ice while accelerating, breaking and cornering – all vital to drive safely in winter.

Would all-weather tires be suitable for me?

All-weather are most suitable for those who:

  1. Live in larger urban areas where roads are cleared of snow more regularly.
  2. Don’t drive drive huge distances each day, approximately less than 3,000km per month.
  3. Have experience driving in winter conditions and adjust driving style according to road conditions.
  4. Receive an insurance winter tire discount which covers all-weather tires.
  5. Want to avoid seasonal tire changes and use one set of tires year-round.

Are all-weather tires as effective in snow and ice as winter tires?

In a word – no. When it comes to dealing with snow and ice, winter tires outperform all-weather tires by a significant degree. However, despite the harsh Albertan winters, all-weather tires are still a suitable option for many drivers. This is because snow is so common in Alberta, that we’ve become really good at coping with it. Just two days after 6 inches of snowfall, you will likely see all major routes and roads in Calgary completely cleared of snow. And once the snow is cleared, the conditions are more than suitable for an all-weather tire to cope with.

That being said, as all-weather tires are designed for both summer and winter conditions, all-weather tires compromise some performance in winter conditions. Therefore, if extensive winter driving or challenging conditions are anticipated, we always advise opting for snow tires.

Consider the following points to determine if winter tires are necessary for your driving habits:

1 – Will you be driving in more rural or urban locations?

Winter conditions inside cities and large towns such as Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Airdrie and Medicine Hat will often be less harsh than those conditions found in smaller towns in Alberta (e.g. Leduc, Spruce Grove, Camrose etc).

Roads in populated areas are often cleared much quicker, gritted much more often, and the heat from more traffic will melt the snow.

However, in rural areas snow can often accumulate for weeks without being cleared, and you will likely experience harsh winter conditions much more regularly.

For this reason, if you often driving in rural areas, we would recommend buying dedicated snow tires.

2 – How far and how often do you drive?

For those who frequently drive long distances for work or family visits, especially taxi drivers or commuters covering 5,000 – 10,000 km/month, investing in winter tires is advisable. The increased likelihood of encountering situations requiring winter tires makes the investment worthwhile.

On the flip side, individuals with work-from-home arrangements or flexible schedules can choose to stay home on days of heavy snowfall, allowing time for road clearance and thus may be able to avoid the days in the year where all-weather tires may not suffice for the road conditions.

3 – What is your winter driving experience?

The significance of winter driving experience plays a crucial role in deciding which tires to purchase. For example, if you’ve been residing in Calgary for forty years and possess extensive knowledge of winter driving nuances, such as braking early and gently, avoiding braking around corners, and driving cautiously on bridges, your extra experience may compensate for the potential shortcomings in winter tire performance.

On the contrary, if you are new to Alberta and lack winter driving experience, opting for dedicated snow tires with enhanced performance might compensate for the lack of familiarity, ensuring you stay on the road in situations where you might otherwise encounter difficulties.

4 – Do You Receive A Winter Tire Insurance Discount?

Many car insurers in Alberta will offer a winter tire discount for those drivers with dedicated winter tires. This can be a substantial sum – even 5% discount can be a $150 saving per year. Bearing in mind a set of winter tires can cost as little as $230 at Canada Tire Pro, this is an investment that could repay itself in under two years.

Be aware that all-weather tires often aren’t covered by a winter tire insurance discount. You will need to check with your insurer to enquire whether you all-weather tires are included as winter tires. This will vary from insurer to insurer.

5 – Do you have a suitable location to store summer and winter tires?

One of the challenges of utilizing a winter tire/summer tire rotation is securing storage for the set not currently in use. If space is limited, and you don’t have access to an outhouse or basement to store your tires, opting for all-weather tires may resolve this issue.

So, what’s the conclusion?

I hope the above points have given you food for thought as to whether all-weather tires are suitable for you. My final comment is – everyone’s situation is different and the answer will vary from person to person. Although we recommend winter tires to all our customers due to the increased safety benefits they offer, we realize that in the real world people have limited funds, storage space, and time and that all-weather tires offer loads of huge benefits to the average consumer.

If in doubt, you could opt for a set of all-weather tires, and if you decide to go for winter tires in the future, the all-weather tires could still be used as a set of summer tires.