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Winter tires vs. all-season tires

Selecting winter or all-season tires for your vehicle

Whether you need winter or all-season tires depends on many factors, including:

  • Where you live
  • Your local weather conditions
  • How low the seasonal temperature drops

A common question tire professionals often get asked is, “do I need winter or all-season tires?” Unfortunately, there is no black and white answer because there are many variables to consider, such as your local legal requirements, your local climate, how often you drive and your budget. In general, all-season tires also offer high levels of safety and performance in moderate climates but let’s take a closer look at tire considerations that will help you decide.

Winter tires vs. all-season tires for your location

Most European countries have their own regulations when it comes to winter tires (aka. snow tires). For some countries, winter tires are recommended, for others they are required by law. The first step to finding the type of tire you need is finding out whether winter tires are a legal requirement. You can find out whether winter tires are mandatory in your country here. If you do live in a region where winter tires are compulsory, you could face severe penalties if you don’t have them. In that case, choosing winter tires will be an easy decision.

A woman with two children are crossing the street.

Winter tires vs. all-season tires for the weather conditions

If your local law says winter tires are recommended but not mandatory, you need to make your own decision on the type of tires you need. You may be able to decide by answering this question: Does the temperature often get low in winter? Then it may be safer for you to switch to winter tires for the season. They are made from a custom rubber compound that stays soft and flexible in low temperatures, which provides better traction. The enhanced tread pattern will also help you get through packed snow, slush and icy conditions. If the temperatures never go that low, tires designed for all-season conditions may be a great option for you. They combine key elements of both snow and all-weather tires, which means they provide reliable grip in rainy, wet and mild winter conditions.

Winter tires vs. all-season tires for your average mileage

If you only use your car occasionally – perhaps for short shopping trips, going to work and visiting friends and family in urban locations – swapping tires twice a year may not be worth the cost, time and effort. Tires for all-season conditions could be an alternative. However, if you use your car often – especially for trips away, into remote locations or colder regions – swapping to snow tires is usually the safer option.

Still undecided? Find out more about the differences between winter and all-season tires below.

When do you need winter tires?

You should swap from summer to winter tires when the temperatures are regularly low. Winter tires are made of a custom rubber compound that stays soft and flexible in low temperatures for better traction and handling. They provide enhanced braking performance in snowy and icy conditions and feature an aggressive tread pattern for greater traction. Learn more about why tread depth in winter tires matters. Additionally, Continental winter tires are put through additional tests, to ensure optimum performance in cold weather conditions. For more context, learn the key differences between summer and winter tires here.

A man cleans snow near the car with shovel in nature.

When do you need all-season tires?

All-season tires are developed to perform all year round in moderate climates. Continental all-season tires are designed to offer impressive grip on both summer and winter roads and good braking performance on dry and wet roads. The main advantages of all-season tires are the savings – money, time, and the effort of seasonal tire changes. However, always remember that winter tires are specifically tailored to the conditions in places that experience cold winters and seasonal conditions like snow and ice, which all-season tires were not designed for.

The tire verdict...

When deciding whether you need a tire for winter or all-season conditions, keep these two key considerations in mind:

  • All-season tires can be used all year round and work well in mild winter conditions, but do not have the same winter-specific features as winter tires, so their performance in harsh winter weather is not as good. 
  • Winter tires should not be used in summer, but they are perfectly suited to dealing with the specific challenges of winter driving. 

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