Winter tyres, or all-season?
A stereotype of the British is that we are weather-obsessed. Perhaps this is true but, in the main, our weather is not as extreme as that of other nations. This is reflected in our tyre buying habits. Over 90% of UK tyre sales are of the ‘summer’ variety, for example. Additionally, unlike certain countries in continental Europe, there is no legal requirement to change to cold weather tyres in the winter months.
Yet, whenever the UK receives even a light dusting of snow, ‘winter tyres’ tends to be a topic that features in at least one motoring periodical. Obviously, they have their benefits in snow and slush especially but their primary advantage is superior grip at temperatures below a notional seven degrees Celsius. ‘Cold Weather’ tyres is, therefore, a more appropriate description.
Even so, cold weather tyres accounted for only 1% of the UK tyre market during 2019. Perhaps we should not be surprised, after the majority of the country has not experienced extreme cold conditions for at least several years. While summer tyres offer less grip in colder conditions (from a theoretical seven degrees Celsius and below), cold weather covers are compromised in warmer weathers.
All Season – the ideal compromise?
Realising that cold weather tyres are suitable only for extremes in British weather, many drivers are turning to all-season tyres not only as a compromise but also a more convenient alternative to swapping and storing two sets of tyres annually. As manufacturers and tyre importers are responding to the demand, the sales of these all-season covers rose to 6% last year.
As their name suggests, all-season tyres offer a go-between between the two alternatives. Their rubber compounds tend to be softer than those of summer tyres but harder than winter tyres. They boast less rolling resistance and, theoretically, fuel consumption benefits, over cold-weather tyres, too. While their abilities remain compromised, compared to tyres designed solely for the summer and winter seasons, British motorists are finding them to be an ideal compromise, when faced with our typically inclement weather.