All season vs winter tyres: what’s the best option?

  • Author: GILES KIRKLAND

When it comes to choosing the right car tyres, owners typically have three options to choose from:
 

  • Summer tyres, which are designed for the warmer seasons
  • Winter tyres, which are designed for the colder climate and icy road surfaces
  • All Season tyres, which offer a balanced compromise for all-year around driving.

For the vast majority of drivers, summer tyres are an obvious choice. However, there are many parts of the UK where the winter weather is not quite severe enough to exclusively warrant the use of winter tyres, so many drivers wonder if it is better to use all season tyres instead?

Understanding the difference

Each of these different tyres has different characteristics, so understanding these parameters (in relation to your specific driving environment) will help greatly.
 
Research from Continental tyres shows that, typically, all-season tyres represent a middle ground between summer and winter products. As such, while they are not as effective in the winter (compared to tyres designed purely for this season), they are better than winter products in the summer - but, of course, they are not as good as summer products.

braking-chart

All season tyres are a compromise between winter and summer products. Source: Continental.

Using all season tyres in the winter?

As you can see from Continental’s research, an all-season tyre offers better braking in wet conditions compared to a winter tyre. However, a winter tyre offers better braking in snow.
 
The problem with these results is that they were tested at different speeds. Nonetheless, the difference on wet braking (2.4 metres) is bigger than the difference in snow braking (1.4 metres), so one could argue this is more important.

Winter tyres offer the best braking in snow.

Of course, this also depends on where you live. If snow is a common problem during the winter, the additional braking in these conditions will be greatly appreciated. On the other hand, wet braking may still be useful throughout the year and, in many parts of the UK, is more common than actual snowfall.

What about the summer?

Of course, for the summer, you can still use all-season products, although there are some areas that summer tyres are better at. For example, because these products aren’t designed to cope with hard slush, they often offer less rolling resistance and better performance in dry conditions.

curvy-road

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What about the temperature?

Aside from the different parameters - which come from the tread design and other features - you also need to consider the temperature of where you drive.


As we’ve mentioned before, when changing summer tyres to winter tyres, you should wait until the temperature drops below 7°C. This is because the compound used in winter products is designed to operate in these colder climates - in warmer environments, the rubber may warp or become too soft.


Similarly, summer options operate best above 7°C. As for all season products, are designed to operate above and below this temperature.

However, as you get closer to the extremes, all season tyres lose some of their usefulness. According to information from Goodyear tyres, for example, these products shouldn’t be used when it gets below -5°C. Instead, winter tyres should be used, to ensure effective performance.

tyres-difference-chart

All season or winter tyres? Temperature is an important factor.

As such, it helps to have knowledge of the average temperatures throughout the years. If it rarely gets this cold, all-season tyres could be used all year around. On the other hand, if its very likely you will encounter this temperature range on a regular basis, winter tyres are better and, since you’re using dedicated winter products, you should use summer tyres during the warmer months - winter tyres are not suitable in the summer and, as already discussed, summer products offer better parameters compared to all-season tyres.


Ultimately, when it comes to choosing all season or winter tyre products, the main benefit of all-season products is to save money by using one set of tyres, rather than 2. However, using one set all year around also increases the tyre wear, so this argument is questionable.

Nonetheless, if you want to save money, or even space in your garage, there are times when all-season tyres can be used. However, when the weather is severe enough, winter tyres will always provide more safety and reliability.

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