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Which tyres should I fit in winter in the UK

Keep on moving: Which tyres should I fit in Winter in the UK?

Sarah Tooze
Written by  Sarah Tooze
3 min read
Updated: 13 Mar 2024

Standard fit summer tyres aren’t designed for wintry conditions, but should you switch to winter tyres or opt for tyres you can use all year round (all-season tyres)? And what effect does changing tyres have on your car insurance?

You might assume that winter tyres aren’t worth fitting to your car unless it’s snowing but actually, when the temperature drops below seven degrees Celsius (7°C) they’re more effective than summer tyres.

That’s because summer tyres aren’t designed for colder temperatures. They’re made of a softer rubber compound, which hardens in cold weather, and the tyre becomes less flexible and loses grip. Winter tyres, on the other hand, are designed to remain flexible at lower temperatures and have a tread pattern which improves grip on slush, snow and ice.

The safety benefits of winter tyres

Tyre manufacturer Michelin says that braking distance in the snow with summer tyres is twice as long as braking distance with certified winter tyres.

On wet roads in the winter, there is a five-metre braking difference, according to the British Tyre Manufacturers’ Association (BTMA). A car with winter tyres, travelling at 62mph, will stop in 65.7 metres compared to 70.5m using summer tyres, it says.

You can spot a certified winter tyre as it will be marked with a three-peak mountain snowflake or Alpine symbol.

row of tyres

What does the law say about winter tyres?

There’s no legal requirement to fit winter tyres in the UK, unlike other countries in Europe, which experience harsher winters.

In some European countries it’s compulsory to fit snow chains. Essentially, these are metal chains that you attach to your tyres to give you more grip in the snow.

Rules about studded tyres (a winter tyre with extra metal studs) also vary by country. They’re illegal in the UK.

If you’re planning to take your car abroad, check the country’s requirements before you travel.

When is the best time to fit winter tyres?

You should switch to winter tyres when the temperature is consistently below 7°C, and switch back to summer tyres when the weather warms up and is consistently above 7°C.

As a rule of thumb, October to March/April is the best time to use winter tyres but it really depends on where you live in the UK and what the average temperatures are.

You’ll get more benefits from winter tyres if you live in Scotland than if you live in the South of England, for example.

What are the disadvantages of fitting winter tyres?

The disadvantages of winter tyres are the hassle and expense of having them fitted and removed, and needing somewhere to store the tyres.

If you don’t have a suitable garage or shed you could use a ‘tyre hotel’, with prices starting at about £15 per set per year.

Although there are no rules against using winter tyres in the summer, it’s not recommended as they won’t perform as well as in warmer temperatures. Michelin points out that the softer tread will wear down quicker on warm tarmac, and optimal handling will be reduced, extending the stopping distance of your vehicle. Your fuel consumption is also likely to go up.

The BTMA says that on a dry road in the summer, the braking distance is five metres further on winter tyres compared to summer tyres when travelling at 62mph.

How much do winter tyres cost?

If you’re planning to fit winter tyres you need to change all four tyres, and it could cost about £500 for a full set from a premium brand. Prices will vary depending on the size of your car.

However, winter tyres last longer than summer tyres and by switching between tyres you won’t have to replace your summer tyres as often.

Some drivers also choose to buy a set of wheels to fit their winter tyres on, and you may want to consider buying a spare wheel.

To decide whether winter tyres are worth the expense or not, you need to consider how much driving you do in the winter months and what the weather is like where you live. You may decide the safety benefits outweigh the cost.

If you can afford it, and your circumstances justify it, the ultimate set-up is a 4x4 car with winter tyres.

What are the pros and cons of all-season tyres?

An alternative to switching between summer and winter tyres is to use all-season tyres (or all-weather tyres). They’re a compromise between summer and winter tyres and use technology from both.

They perform well in temperatures ranging from -10°C up to 30°C so they’re ideal for mild summers and mild winters with light snowfall.

They are more effective than winter tyres above 7°C but they won’t be as good as winter tyres in severe winter conditions, especially heavy snowfall.

How much do all-season tyres cost?

All-season tyres are usually cheaper than winter tyres and you won’t have the inconvenience or expense of changing and storing them as you can use them all year round.

However, you could still pay about £400 or more for a set of premium brand tyres, depending on your vehicle size.

Does changing my tyres affect my car insurance?

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says that most insurers do not charge additional premiums for vehicles fitted with winter tyres, provided that the tyres are roadworthy and have been fitted in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

However, whether you have to inform your insurer you have fitted winter or all-season tyres varies, so it’s worth checking on your insurer’s website or giving them a call.

If you’ve changed the wheels as well as the tyres you will need to contact them.