As Canadians, we know how treacherous our roads and highways can be in the winter. Installing winter tires on your car is one of the smartest steps you can take to prevent accidents, since they’re designed to handle colder temperatures and harsh elements like snow and ice. But winter tires don’t just keep you, your family, and others safe during the snowy season – they could also save you money on your car insurance.
How winter tires help with car insurance savings
The link between having winter tires and saving money on car insurance isn’t super obvious at first. But it’s no big secret that at-fault collisions can cause your car insurance premium to go up.
Here’s how they’re connected: a rear-end collision is generally considered to be the fault of the person who hits the vehicle in front of them – in other words, it’s an at-fault collision. Since winter tires can help you stop more quickly on slippery, icy roads, they can also help prevent rear-end collisions if you have to brake suddenly in poor conditions. They can also help prevent you from spinning out into an object (like a guardrail), which is also typically considered an at-fault collision.
It’s simple: winter tires can help you keep your car insurance costs lower by helping you avoid at-fault accidents.
Did you know? An at-fault collision can stay on your claims history for up to six years. That’s six whole years of paying more for your insurance if you hit another car by accident because you didn’t have winter tires. There’s no question, winter tires are worth it!
Will I get a discount on my car insurance if I have winter tires?
It depends where you live. Insurers in Ontario offer car insurance discounts as an incentive to install winter tires because they reduce the likelihood of a car accident claim happening. Generally speaking, savings are between 2% and 5%. The best part is that you’ll typically get the winter tire discount for the whole year – not just when you have them on your car. Hopefully, other provinces will also require insurers to offer a winter tire discount. We think everyone deserves savings for safer driving!
The best time to install winter tires
As a general rule, you should change over to winter tires as soon as the temperature consistently dips below 7°C. But, some provinces do have specific guidelines for installing winter tires:
Winter tires aren’t mandatory in Ontario. But if you want to get the winter tire discount, your insurer will probably require you to have them on between November and April. The deadline for installing winter tires can vary between companies, so make sure you ask your provider about their rules.
Under Quebec’s Highway Safety Code, winter tires are mandatory, and you must have them on between December 1st and March 15th. Insurers will expect you to comply with this rule.
In British Columbia, winter tires are mandatory between October 1st and April 30th in certain mountainous regions and high snowfall areas.
Other provinces and territories
The other provinces and territories have different rules around winter tires and other traction devices like studded tires and chains. Ask your insurer about installation deadlines and if other traction devices are allowed. Even if your province doesn’t offer a winter tire discount, your insurer might still want you to have them on your car.
Heads up! Honesty is the best policy. Your insurer could reserve the right to deny your claim if you don't have winter tires on when mandated or while receiving the discount.
Winter tires vs. All season tires – What your insurance company wants
A study by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation has shown that at temperatures just below freezing, stopping distances for vehicles with winter tires are as much as 30% shorter than for vehicles with all season tires.1 And on slippery, icy roads, every second counts to avoid an accident.
Winter tires are designed for winter conditions to help prevent collisions. That’s why insurance companies often prefer (and could require) you to have winter tires on your car, rather than all season tires. They help reduce the likelihood of a car accident claim – and the fewer claims, the better.
Here are a few more facts we think you should know about winter tires vs. all season tires:
- Made with rubber that stays flexible in colder temps and grips cold, dry pavement
- Have a deep tread pattern with thin cuts that help flush out slush and ice buildup
- Designed to be used below 7°C
- Ideal for sub-zero, snowy conditions
All season tires
- Harder rubber, better for hot pavement
- Have generally finer, straighter treads good for repelling water in the rain
- Designed to be used above 7°C
- Ideal for warmer, drier, and wet conditions
Heads up! Many newer cars also have built-in technology that helps you avoid crashes. But even the most state-of-the art tech like Electronic Stability Control won’t work if your tires don’t have good enough traction in bad weather.
Choosing the right winter tires for car insurance discounts
If you live in Ontario, here are a few winter tire tips your insurer will be happy with:
- Don’t mix and match your winter tires. To get car insurance discounts for winter tires, you need to have a set of four matching snow tires. Non-matching tires (say, two winter tires and two all-season) can affect your car’s stability and make it harder to handle, which can up your chance of getting into an accident.
- Make sure they have the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol. This symbol is sometimes called the Alpine symbol. It signifies that the tires were designed specifically for severe snow conditions and meet snow traction performance requirements.
- Buy the right size for your vehicle. Some SUVs and trucks need bigger tires to maintain control and stability. The right size tires will help with response time – and, you guessed it, good tire response time will help prevent accidents. You can usually find tire details on the driver’s doorpost, or on the glove box, trunk, or fuel door.
How not having winter tires could impact your car insurance at renewal
If you don’t have winter tires and get into an at-fault accident, there are a few things that could happen when it’s time for your car insurance renewal:
- Your premium will go up. We know we’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating! After an at-fault collision you can expect your insurance costs to increase (sometimes by a lot).
- Your car insurance renewal could be declined. To your insurer, too many accidents imply you’re a high-risk driver. Depending on how many accidents you already have on your recent claims history, your insurer may not renew your car insurance. You might have to look for insurance elsewhere – and you could be paying even more.
- You’ll lose your accident forgiveness. If you have accident forgiveness and you get into an at-fault collision, it will be removed from your policy. You won’t be eligible again for another several years (usually six), and you’ll have to stay accident-free the entire time. Plus, if you get into another at-fault accident you’ll be rated for it.
Winter tires are worth the investment. They keep you safer on the road in the winter and help you maintain a clean insurance record since they help prevent at-fault collisions. And, fewer accidents equals lower car insurance costs for you. Plus, depending on where you live you could save even more with a winter tire discount!