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Cost of Winter Tires – Are They Worth it?

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As another Canadian winter approaches so will the countless ads for winter tires. After seeing many of these ads you may ask yourself, “Do I really need winter tires?” or “Can I actually afford winter tires?” In many cases the answer is that you can’t afford NOT to get yourself winter tires. After setting some simple guidelines and doing a little math you will easily be able to make an informed decision.

How much do winter tires cost?

Winter tires cost $80 to $200 per tire or $360 to $800 for a set of 4.

LevelPrice range
Low-end< $100
Mid-range$100 to $200
High-end> $200

Prices listed in the table below apply to the popular 205/55R16 size, which is suitable for compact cars like the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla. Prices are based on TireRack.com, Kal Tire, 1010Tires and Canadian Tire and do not include the cost of installation and balancing.

TirePrice per tire
Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3$225
Michelin X-Ice Snow$190
Bridgestone Blizzak WS90$167
Continental VikingContact 7$184
Pirelli Ice Zero FR$204
General Altimax Arctic 12$157
Yokohama BluEarth Winter V905$171
Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9$199

The initial upfront cost required to buy winter tires can lead some to assume they can’t afford them. Including a set of new rims, you can expect to pay $800 to $1500 for a midsize car. However, you will find several tire promotions available all year that offer good discounts and you may qualify for insurance rebates by using winter tires during the winter months thanks to the added safety they provide.

Factors that affect the cost

  • Tire size: smaller passenger car tires (14″ to 15″) are cheaper than larger truck and suv tires (19″ to 22″). Generally speaking, prices can rise sharply above 17″ for any season tire.
  • Tire origin: Chinese-made tires (Sailun, Maxtrek, etc.) are considerably cheaper than domestic brands (Michelin, Goodyear, etc.).

Installation and maintenance cost

The cost associated with installation and required maintenance will depend on having 2 sets of rims or not. Size may also increase fees but you should be informed if this applies.

5 year cost analysis – 1 set vs 2 sets of rims

The following is the cost comparison over the 5 year period that your winter tires will last before they need to be replaced.

Changing tires with 1 set of rims (re-mounting every time)

If you have one set of rims then your summer/winter tires have to be removed and the other installed. Swapping the tires on the rims costs $60 to $80. It is labor-intensive and should include wheel balancing as well.

  • $100 x 2 changes per year = $200
  • $200 x 5 years = $1000

Changing tires with 2 sets of rims (each with its own set)

If you have two sets of rims then your tires – summer and winter – are already mounted so the time/labor that is required is much less. This should include an air pressure check and top-up. If you are having other services performed some shops will not charge extra to change them over.

  • 4 new rims = $240
  • Initial mount and balance = $80
  • Seasonal changes = $50 x 4 years x 2 changes/year = $800

If you factor in a couple of tire balances ($50) over 5 years your maintenance costs are from $100 less to about equal, but using a second set of rims means it takes much less time to change tires, you can change them yourself, you own 2 sets of rims instead of 1 and limiting the number of times a tire is removed and mounted to a rim reduces the chances of damaging the bead.

Optional costs

A few things to consider are tire balancing, tire storage and tire pressure sensors (TPMS). Although balancing is included when 1 set of rims are being used it should not go unchecked with already mounted tires. A small imbalance can increase tire wear.

Tire balancing

Seasonal balancing costs $50 to $150 (high-end is if road force balancing required)

The cost to rotate 4 tires is $20 to $40.

Tire storage

Seasonal tire storage costs $40 to $100.

If you live in an apartment or condo, you may not have space to store the set of tires that aren’t on your vehicle.

Other than the price, you should ask about the storage conditions and if storage will be handled by a third party. Improper storage conditions (eg. not climate-controlled) will have an adverse affect on tire rubber compounds and can lead to premature tire failure.

You may also want to ask if your tires will be insured and how you will be reimbursed if they are misplaced, damaged or stolen.

Tire Pressure Monitoring Sensors (TPMS)

Tire pressure monitoring sensors (TPMS) measure the current pressure in the four tires and cost around $100 per sensor.

They are not required by law but can be a reliable safety device when used properly. You may have a dashboard light on at all times if the system does not have sensors installed.

Keeping close track of your tire pressure can improve the longevity of the tire, improve fuel mileage and, most importantly, alert you to any sudden changes in air pressure that may indicate a leak or puncture.

How to save money on winter tires

Here are a few ways to save on winter tires:

Buy used tires

You can find some great deals on winter tires on Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace where they sell at deep discounts. However, just like for used cars, it can be hard to determine how well they were treated by their former owner and how much life they have left just by looking at it.

Follow the tips in our winter tires buying guide to ensure you get the right type, size and age of tires. Other tips:

  • Bring a toonie or tread depth gauge to measure the remaining tread depth (a new tire typically has 10/32” (8 mm) to 12/32” (9.5 mm) tread depth and is against the law in most provinces to use tires with less than 2/32” (1.6 mm). Transport Canada states that tires with less than 5/32″ (4 mm) remaining should not be used on snow-covered roads.
  • If you notice any cuts or cracks in the sidewall, bulges or blisters or tread distortion, it’s probably best to pass on them.
  • If you get the feeling that the tires were stored outside or have long-term exposure to the sun, rain, or extreme temperatures, it’s probably best to pass on them.

Install them yourself

Have a shop mount and balance the tires to a second set of rims. The company you bought the tires from should be willing to do this for a low fee, but the average cost is $30 to $50. Don’t pay to install them, instead, take them home and change them yourself which will save you around $50 to $60.

Check with your insurance company

As of Jan. 1st, 2016, all Ontario insurance companies are required by law to offer some type of winter tire premium discount. A similar requirement was put into place in Newfoundland in 2020. The average discount is 5%.

Look for manufacturer rebates

Most tire retailers will regularly offer rebates such as the common “Buy 3 Get One Free”. Some of these are direct rebates and others may be customer mail-in rebates. They usually come in the form of gift cards or prepaid cards and rebate amounts will vary from size, model and brand.

Are winter tires worth the money?

The increased safety and control in harsh winters and rainy summers is more than enough to justify the decision to purchase of winter tires – especially if you drive a lot throughout the winter – and you may also benefit from insurance savings along with better fuel mileage that comes with having properly maintained tires.

For reference, 76% of all Canadians (69% outside of Quebec, where winter tires are mandated) switch over to winter tires in the winter months to give them better traction and control on snowy and icy roads – with 79% of owners believing that they have saved them a potentially hazardous situation.

What about all-season tires?

All season tires cost $80 to $125 per tire (including installation and balancing).

All season tires remain affordable but have been referred to as “No-Season” tires because they can be lousy in the warm weather and worse in cold temperatures. The tread design of an all season tire offers a quiet and smooth ride but at the expense of handling in adverse conditions – hot or cold. Initially any new tire with good treads will provide decent traction but after a few kilometers of wear the performance fall off is drastic.

The science behind tires and temperature is relatively simple. As a rubber compound gets colder, it gets harder. Think of a hockey puck sliding on ice.

Conversely, as the same compound gets warmer it gets softer. At this point the tire will act like a pencil eraser used on paper, push hard enough and the rubber peels away onto the paper, or road for our purposes.

So a winter is made of a softer compound so that it remains soft at colder temperatures, usually 7°C is the industry standard. A summer tire will maintain proper handling characteristics when temperatures climb.

Related: Best all season tires

What to read next

Over to you

Below is what I personally paid for my tires and rims. Leave a comment and let me know about your winter tire buying experience!

  • Tire Discounter – Kitchener – Tires – $410 set of 4 Cooper Winter Tires
  • Tire Discounter – Kitchener – Steel Rims – $212 set of 4

About the author

Cansumer Staff
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