When Nicol brokers reach out to our clients to go over their auto policy renewals, there are a few questions we hear time and time again. “If I buy winter tires, will that mean lower insurance rates? I only drive in the city, so do I really need them?” The short and simple answer to both questions is ‘yes’. If you are winter driving in Ontario, winter tires are a valuable investment for your safety, your vehicle’s protection and for your insurance coverage, no matter where you are driving. In the world of insurance, knowledge is the best defense against an unfortunate claim, so this month we want to explain the science behind winter tires, how they work to protect you, and what they mean to your insurance policy. It is just another way that Nicol is working to protect your lifestyle!
How Do Winter Tires Work?
To most people, there is little visual difference between all-season and winter tires. Rubber is rubber, right? In truth, the real difference between the two is in the specific rubber compounds used in manufacturing.
Winter tires are designed to be soft and flexible, which gives them better performance in displacing water and gripping onto the road surface, much like a winter boot. All-season and summer tires are made of a much less flexible rubber, which means the colder they get the more rigid they become, and their ability to grip the road is significantly lowered. If you have ever hit the brakes on snowy roads and slid further than you anticipated, then you understand why that extra grip is so important.
The tread on winter tires is also more deeply cut and complex in design. These features serve to help displace as much water and snow as possible, picking them up as you drive, holding onto them in the treads, and tossing them behind your vehicle in one smooth motion. All-season tires have shallower treads, which can fill up quickly with compacted snow and ice, resulting in slippery, smooth tires that are considerably less effective at providing traction and gripping the road.
Isn’t All-Wheel Drive Good Enough To Protect Me?
This is one of the most common misconceptions about winter driving. It is easy to assume that four driving wheels offer more traction than two do, but in reality, All-Wheel Drive (AWD) only really helps when it comes to acceleration. The even distribution of power to all wheels will help you get started from a dead stop, but an All-Wheel Drive transmission does not really add any additional road grip, which is what matters most when you’re trying to slow down or maneuver. Do not be overconfident about All-Wheel Drive, it is by no means a substitute for a good set of winter tires. In fact, most Front-Wheel Drive vehicles with winter tires outperform AWD models with no winter tires in almost every winter driving scenario.
How Do Winter Tires Impact My Insurance?
The cost of a good set of winter tires can be high, no question about that. If you want the best protection for your vehicle, you could be looking at $800-$1000 for a set of four, depending on the model and manufacturer. With such a high price tag, many vehicle owners choose to go with cheap winter tires, or all-seasons instead. What many vehicle owners do not realize is that investment will not just offer you better protection, it will offer you better insurance rates.
Contrary to what you may think, insurance companies actually do not want you to place any claims; they want you to keep driving safely all year! That is why all insurance providers offer up to a 5% insurance reduction for installing proper winter tires. Five percent may not seem like much, but considering that good winter tires can last up to 8 years, and the discount is applied 12 months of the year, every little bit helps.
Additionally, be sure to hold onto your receipts and let your broker know what model of winter tires you purchase. They will need proof of what you have installed before they can adjust your policy, and not all tires qualify for the discount. You will want to keep an eye out for the mountain/snowflake symbol on your new tires; it indicates that they are safety rated and qualify as a winter tire for your insurance discount.
Hopefully, this month’s blog helped you better understand why winter tires are an important investment. That extra grip will provide a much safer driving experience for you, your family and other drivers on the road, and the savings on your insurance certainly do not hurt. Winter tires are not mandatory, but we cannot recommend them enough for the safety they provide. When it comes to weighing a price tag against your life, or the life of someone you love, it is a bit of a no-brainer. If you ever have questions about winter tires and the important role they play in your auto insurance, feel free to contact your Nicol broker. We are here to keep you informed and protected, no matter what season you are driving in!