All Season Tires Vs Winter Tires — Main Differences

Dealing with challenging winter weather is part of driving in Canada. So, when temperatures drop and snowflakes begin to fall, it’s crucial to have the correct tires on your vehicle to travel safely on wintry roads. 

Therefore, we’ve created this all season tires vs winter tires guide to explain their unique qualities and pros and cons to help you choose a set of tires that will best suit your driving habits. 

All Season Tires Vs Winter Tires — Introduction

Winter tires, often known as snow tires, are designed to withstand prolonged winter conditions like ice, snow, and slush. All season tires are designed to provide a smooth and quiet ride in most mild road conditions

However, before forming opinions about a potential winner in the matchup of winter vs all season tires, let’s look at their designs, features, strengths, and weaknesses below.

What Are All Season Tires?

All season tires’ construction and tread design enable them to perform well on most wet and dry roads in a wide range of temperatures. As their name implies, you can use them all year long. Within reason, of course.

For example, although their rubber is engineered to stay pliable in colder weather, they’re not suitable for extreme winter conditions like those in the northern Canadian provinces.

While creating this all season tires vs winter tires guide, we learned that they function best in temperatures above 7℃. 

It’s true, they’re designed to be used all year, but this depends on what type of climate you live in. For instance, if you live in Manitoba, all season tires aren’t a good substitute for dedicated winter tires.

What Are Winter Tires?

With their unique tread design, softer rubber, and traction-enhancing biting edges, winter tires are designed to tackle the rigours of harsh winter driving conditions. 

The tread compounds used in winter tires allow them to remain flexible as the temperature drops below 7℃. In fact, when comparing all season tires vs winter types, even when it’s below freezing, this flexibility will still provide increased traction and handling.

Furthermore, there are two types of winter tires.

Studless Winter Tires

The studless tire is the type that we’ve been discussing throughout this guide. They’re built using a soft rubber compound and have a deeper tread design. 

Studded Winter Tires

Although the tread pattern of this tire is basically the same, it has metal studs embedded in it that dig into the ice, offering even more traction in extreme winter weather.

Main Difference Between All Season and Winter Tires

All season tires can provide a smooth, quiet ride and perform admirably on most wet or dry roads at or above 7℃

However, while they offer sufficient grip in light snow and the occasional winter storm, they’re not built to perform in heavy snow, ice, or freezing temperatures.

On the other hand, due to their softer rubber construction, winter tires are made for driving in subzero temperatures, snow, ice, and slush for extended periods. In fact, snow tires work best when temperatures drop below 7℃

All Season Vs Winter Tires Stopping Distance

Maintaining control and stopping distance are crucial elements of driving on wintry roads, and this is where winter tires really shine. 

Nowadays, some all season tires perform well on light snow and ice. However, just about any winter tire vs all season test will demonstrate that winter tires provide superior traction and stopping distance

For example, when testing the stopping distance of winter tires vs all season on the ice, winter tires stopped 1.8 metres shorter. Moreover, on packed snow, they required a shorter distance to accelerate from 8 to 32 km/h — 6.7 metres shorter than all seasons. 

Plus, at 30 km/h, winter tires stopped more than six metres shorter in light snow and nearly nine metres shorter in icy conditions.

Efficiency and Cost of Winter Tires Vs All Season

Winter tires are engineered to maintain their flexibility in freezing temperatures in order to provide consistent and confident steering, braking, and traction in heavy snow and ice. However, their softer rubber means that they’ll wear out faster, especially on dry, warm roads.

On the other hand, all season tires can conveniently offer suitable traction and control on most wet and dry roads at or above 7℃. And although their harder rubber composition makes them more durable, it’s also why they don’t perform as well on snow and ice.

The cost of winter vs all season tires is virtually the same. A new set of either type will set you back at least $350 to $800 without rims and around $700 to $1,000 with rims.

Additionally, if you plan on purchasing a set of each and hiring a professional to change them, you can expect to pay (twice a year):

  • $80 – $150 for all four tires mounted on rims, balanced, and installed 
  • $40 – $70 for all four tires that are already mounted on rims

All Season Vs Winter Tires — When to Use Them

In order to know if you need to use winter tires along with your all season tires, you should consider a few factors. The climate you live in, the road conditions you usually travel on, and how often you drive are key indicators of which type of tire you should be using.

When to Use All Season Tires

All season tires can serve you well if you live in a temperate climate with the occasional splattering of snow and ice. Moreover, their specific rubber compound and tread design promote comfort, low noise output, and durability.

Plus, when comparing winter vs all season tires, the latter have lower rolling resistance, which can conserve energy and improve fuel efficiency. So, like their name states, you can use these types of wheels all year long if you live in the ideal climate.

When to Use Winter Tires

If you live in an area of Canada that has mandatory winter tire laws or experiences regular snowfall and freezing temperatures, then you should definitely have a set of winter tires. 

According to the research we compiled while creating this all season tires vs winter tires guide, the air temperature determines the optimal time to use winter tires. You should switch from all season tires when it’s at or below 7℃.

Therefore, you should plan on changing your tires in the late fall when the temperature gets consistently below 7℃. Then, in the spring, when the temperature is steadily above 7℃, you should promptly switch back to your all season set.

Is It Better to Get Winter Tires or All Season 

The answer to this will be determined by the climate in which you live. For instance, all season tires can undoubtedly meet your needs if you only get a little snow each year, and wet, icy roads are more of a surprise than a problem. 

When it comes to the performance of winter tires vs all season, installing winter tires isn’t an over-the-top precaution. It’s a necessary safety step, especially if there will be a period when icy roads are a constant issue. 

When spring arrives, keep in mind to re-mount those all season tires. Because, although winter tires are unquestionably preferable in harsh winter conditions, they will wear out faster on dry pavement.

Conclusion

We hope that our guide has thoroughly answered the question “Are winter tires better than all season tires?” Knowing which one will best suit your particular driving habits is crucial for travelling safely in the often brutal Canadian weather.

All season tires are perfectly safe for some drivers. However, If you live in a region with harsh winter weather, you should switch to a set of quality winter tires, like Nokians or General brand tires, when the temperature drops below 7℃.

FAQ

Are all season tires as good as winter tires in the snow?

No, in fact, when it comes to winter tires vs all season tires in the snow, a set of quality winter tires are far superior. They’ll provide you with better traction, control, and stopping power.

Do winter tires stop better on ice?

Yes. Although winter tires can still skid on icy roads, there is a substantial difference between winter tires vs all season braking distance

For example, at 30 km/h, winter tires can stop more than six metres shorter in light snow and nearly nine metres shorter in icy conditions.

Do winter tires wear out faster than all season ones in warm weather?

Yes, winter tires’ rubber is softer than that of all season and summer tires. Therefore, that same flexible tread that provides grip in the winter will quickly wear out in warm weather. 

Whereas summer and all season tires are built using rubber compounds, lending to their enhanced longevity.

Is it ok to drive with all season tires in winter?

Yes, it can be. When you’re driving on dry or wet pavement, the correct set of all season tires will keep you safe. They can even survive in moderate winters

However, if you live where there is extreme winter weather and the roads are coated with ice and snow, driving with a set of proper winter tires is your safest option.

Are worn winter tires better than all season ones?

According to a series of independently conducted new all season tires vs winter tests, even worn winter tires function better in snow and ice

Kal Tire, a Canadian retailer, first commissioned the tests in 2019 to compare the performance of new winter tires to new all season tires in cold weather. 

The findings showed that at temperatures below 7℃, the results convincingly indicated that winter tires provided the best traction and control.

Kal Tire conducted a similar test in 2020, but this time with brand new all season tires vs winter tires. Shockingly, this all season tires vs winter tires experiment revealed that premium winter tires, even 75% worn, outperformed brand-new all season tires on snow and ice.

After teaching for 8 years, Damjana found a new challenge — writing. With her academic background in the English language, doing research and writing is always fun and enjoyable. In her spare time, she loves binge-watching TV shows, especially crime documentaries, or spending time with her dogs.

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