January is here, and with it comes the common question: Do I need snow tires? Turns out there isn’t really a short answer, because the answer depends on a variety of factors. Let’s dive right in and find out if you should shell out for snow tires this winter.
Question One: Where Do You Live?
The most obvious component to this answer – and most impactful – is local climate. If you live in a place like Vermont or Michigan – or any state that sees a lot of sub-40 degree temperatures and regular snow – you might want to dig into your checking account and get a new set of tires for your ride.
Snow isn’t the only reason to get snow tires. After all, they’re commonly referred to in the industry as “winter” tires rather than snow tires, as it’s a more accurate term – the rubber compounds and tread patterns are made to handle better in colder and wetter settings. Even if you live in a dryer state that doesn’t get a lot of snow, but do a lot of driving in cold weather (or at night in states that are generally considered ‘warmer’), you may want to make the investment, because you’ll see plenty of benefit.
Question Two: What Kind Of Car Do You Have?
Driving a Miata all winter? Hey, props to you if you’re brave enough to do that, just know that you will absolutely need more traction than a lightweight, rear-wheel drive car can provide in wintery conditions.
If your car has all-wheel drive, you might be fine on all-season tires, but will still see an added benefit by going with winter/snow tires instead.
SUVs, pickup trucks and wagons are where things get a bit iffy, especially if you don’t have all-wheel or four-wheel drive. While you may have more grip when accelerating or turning thanks to the added weight, stopping could be a big issue, especially in wet and icy conditions. Winter tires can help avoid all of the issues that come with that.
Question Three: Can You Afford Them?
Listen, in an ideal world, everyone would have winter tires for months like January and February, but even if they’re something most people *should* have, they may not be something that everyone can afford.
A good set of winter tires can run you anywhere from $65-120 per tire (so, $260-480 for a full set) – and buying a partial set is a bad idea as it gives you different grip levels in the front and back – so it can be a hefty investment for many drivers. If you’re comfortable driving in the snow, have the right kind of car and are willing to drive far more carefully in wintery conditions, you can probably get by without.
That said, if you can afford them and live in a state where they’ll get enough use, you should consider them an important investment, both for your safety and the safety of others on the road.