At NerdWallet, we try that will help you make monetary selections with confidence. To do that, many or all the merchandise featured listed here are from our companions. Nevertheless, this doesn’t affect our evaluations. Our opinions are our personal.
My brother lives within the mountains of Colorado, and with winter bearing down, he requested me if he ought to get an all-wheel-drive car or simply purchase snow tires for his present automotive.
Good query. After I was a child rising up in New England, snow tires had deep tread and typically metal studs that made a racket on dry pavement. However I suspected that tires had modified enormously, like so many issues within the automotive world. So I known as just a few tire specialists to search out out.
Not your father’s snow tires
For starters, I discovered that snow tires at the moment are “winter tires,” so-named as a result of they’re designed to deal with not simply snow, but in addition ice and very low temperatures. The previous waffle-like grooves have been changed with subtle tread patterns that embrace small slits, known as “sipes,” to raised present traction.
“Winter tires have simply gotten an entire lot higher,” says Woody Rogers, product info officer from Tire Rack, which checks and sells tires on-line. He provides that in winter driving, drivers want tires to grip on slush, black ice and snow-packed intersections. “That’s the place winter tires could make a giant distinction.”
Winter tires are manufactured from a compound that continues to be delicate and pliable even in extraordinarily low temperatures, says Dan Edmunds, director of auto testing for automotive website Edmunds.com (no relation). So even on dry pavement that’s very chilly, winter tires will grip higher than all-season or summer season tires.
Gene Petersen, tire program supervisor for Client Experiences, says his testing has proven that winter tires can lower braking distances in half when stopping from 60 mph, in contrast with all-season tires. “Should you’re on the lookout for the most effective benefit and peace of thoughts, in the event you should be out driving, then get winter tires on your car,” Petersen says.
False sense of safety
All-wheel-drive autos — which offer energy to all 4 wheels, not simply two — are a knee-jerk selection for a lot of automotive house owners within the frozen north, though the choice sometimes provides $1,500 to $three,000 to the car’s price, in line with AutoTrader. The principle benefit of all-wheel drive is that if one wheel begins to slide — maybe as a result of it’s on ice — the opposite wheels present energy.
However Petersen thinks all-wheel drive would possibly give drivers a false sense of safety and encourage them to drive past the protected limits of the car. And, as soon as the automotive is in movement, all-wheel drive doesn’t enhance dealing with or braking.
In reality, Edmunds believes that if the driving force feels the wheels spinning, it reminds them how slippery the circumstances are and they’ll, hopefully, drive slower.
Tire selection is crucial
Whether or not you resolve to purchase winter tires or drive on all-seasons year-round, it’s nonetheless vital to get the proper tires on your automotive. Edmunds.com and Client Experiences have carried out intensive tire testing that will help you resolve what’s proper on your automotive.
Some specialists advocate getting a narrower measurement for winter tires to allow them to slice via the snow. However Petersen says most automotive house owners will need to preserve it easy and go for the dimensions really useful by the sticker within the automotive’s door jamb.
Rogers factors out that at Tire Rack, you possibly can nonetheless get recommendation from a human being at its name middle to assist with winter tire choice. Or you should use its choice information to search out the tires that suit your driving profile. Consultants advocate putting in winter tires on all 4 wheels.
Seasonal change hassles
Shopping for winter tires and having a tire retailer mount and steadiness them in your wheels annually is a time-consuming, costly trouble.
Edmunds recommends shopping for an additional set of wheels simply on your winter tires. Then, you possibly can jack up the automotive and alter them your self earlier than the snow flies. Primary metal wheels for a compact sedan are about $95 every.
Should you purchase wheels with the tires already mounted and balanced, additionally, you will keep away from the $80 sometimes charged by a tire retailer. This price financial savings pays for getting the additional wheels after about three years, Rogers estimates.
So, AWD or snow tires?
There are nonetheless trade-offs to contemplate in making an attempt to reply my brother’s query. Listed below are just a few extra benefits provided by all-wheel-drive autos:
You’ll get waved via checkpoints in mountain passes the place authorities are requiring different vehicles to placed on chains.
Deep snow and steep inclines are much less prone to cease you.
This function provides to the car’s resale worth in some areas.
However all-wheel drive has some limitations and downsides:
The elevated complexity makes repairs costlier.
It provides weight to the car and may lower gas financial system.
Braking distances and cornering are the identical as with two-wheel-drive vehicles.
So it nearly appears as if the tire selection is as vital as deciding whether or not to get an all-wheel-drive car. Edmunds suggests making the a lot smaller funding of a brand new set of wheels and tires — reasonably than an entire new car — and driving on this setup for a winter season.
In reality, that’s precisely what my brother determined to do.