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Do I need winter tires?


I live in the Deep South, where three snow days a year allow me to run year-long on the all-season tires that came with my car, a 2010 Scion xB. I usually fly to visit my family up in Quebec during the winter, but this year, circumstances might force me to drive there and back in late December/early January (though most of the driving I’ll do while I’m there --a few weeks-- will be limited to changing parking spaces). I’m on a limited budget (precisely because I’m still paying for the car), I have significant experience driving in real winter conditions but I’m also not a daredevil. Hence my two questions:

  1. How crazy would it be to simply go there with my current, “all-season” tires?

  2. Insofar as the answer to #1 is “way too much”, and considering I barely ever need winter tires, what options do I have? Are used tires reliable? What should I expect to pay (installed)? What kind of shop should I go to?

Thanks a lot!


Don’t spend the money.
Drive on what you have.
Roads willikely be clear or clear enough for you.
If concerned, getire chains at Walmart
If unused and box kept perfect, return them, but buy lots of other things from them to make up for the trouble.

Step 6: ignore Robert Gift.

Canada has a law requiring winter tires be on your vehicle while driving on their roads during winter months.
Your best bet would be to find a set of steel rims off an Xb from a recycling yard nearby and buying a set of FOUR winter tires and having them mounted and balanced on the rims.
If you can’t find rims at a recycling yard, head over to and buy a cheap set of rims and get tires for them and they can ship the tires already mounted and balanced on the rims. They have recommended shops they can ship to and the shop will change them out for you, just be sure to tell them you want to keep your old rims and tires.

After your trip, you can change them back and either sell them on ebay, a Scion Xb forum, advertise them on a local college campus and see if anyone is going outta state for their next semester, or what have you.

Whether they are required or not, “bscar” is giving sound advice. You cannot depend upon the roads being clear in the north during the winter months. You could get caught driving on summer treads or not, you could get caught in a storm. You take your chances if you don’t follow bscar’s good advice in Quebec. There are some all seasons that have decent enough tread to get you by ONLY if they are fairly new. At the least, if you take the chance, worn all seasons will get you in trouble so buy new ones before you go regardless.

There are your options; one legal, one not.

I don’t know about the law in Canada, but don’t doubt bscar that a law is on the books. That area gets snow starting just before or after our Thanksgiving. Early snows don’t hang around more than a day or so. By end of December it is likely that larger storms will drop 6 - 12" of snow and the ground will be white until sometime in March or April. Roads get cleared pretty fast, but the main issue is your flexibility. If you can wait out stormy weather and just drive a day or two after the storm(s) have passed you could survive without winter tires. If you must travel on certain days with no flexibility, then winter tires are a must.

I drive my Civic from PA to Niagara Falls, NY every year in the 1st week of Dec. I make sure to have my winter tires on the car for the trip and there is always some snow to deal with before I come home about a week later. Last year I encountered heavy snow just south of Rochester and lots of cars were off I-390.

Last year drove same Civic with winter tires from PA to Tampa FL a week before Christmas and returned to PA about a month later. Ran into snow on the way south in Virginia and North Carolina. Had even more snow on the way home starting in NC and continuing all the way into PA where we eventually stopped for the night due to the bad road conditions. My winter tires were a big help even on this trip to the deep south. In NC and SC there just weren’t any plows operating at all, so loads of cars were stuck and I was able to keep moving without any problem.

The costs of winter tires gets pretty reasonable when you consider the cost of deductible if you get into an accident sliding around on the road.

If you have all-season tires with good tread, if you aren’t traveling in particularly hilly areas, if you can wait for the roads to be cleared if it snows, and if you drive with extra care, I think you’ll be okay.

As for the law about winter tires, I thought that was only for Quebec and only for cars registered there.

Waiting out storms in the North East is the problem…In many area’s you CAN’T…Way too many storms with enough snow to make roads very slick. Here in NH if you have a rwd vehicle…then snows are highly recommended…FWD…and any decent all-season tire will do fine. You really only need snows on a fwd vehicle on anything 6" or more…which might be 3-4 days a year.

Upstate NY between Syracuse and Watertown…well that’s a different story. Areas in that region have an annual snow fall amounts 10 times what Southern NH gets…So the amount of days a FWD vehicle would really need snows goes up significantly. In fact 4wd is highly recommended. Some of those small towns in the middle of the Lake Effect area average over 300" of snow a year. The town I grew up in averaged about 250" a year…which is more then double what Southern NH all time snow fall record is.

MikeInNH brings up a good point. A route through Albany would be preferred over a route closer to the lakes.

I know the two trains of thought and I’m with MikeInNH on this and using all season tires. “A great man never repeats himself, never”, but this bears repeating regardless. Running around in the winter in all season tires is OK, but only if they are less than half worn and rated well for winter traction. My experience is that a snow tire worn to the wear bars still has more winter traction then an all season that’s new in most cases. Some all seasons so called, can be virtual ice skates with minimal wear and can be dangerous in any snow regardless of how slight.

I going to go with timing buying new all seasons for your car, in and around the time of the trip that have a decent winter rated traction capability (see Tire Rack) and are as new as possible. It’s all about the hills, dirt roads and not just the snow. With some half worn all season tires, one inch of snow on any hill at all with despicable (IMO) FWD, you will find it tough “sledding” : cause that’s what you’ll be doing.

Googled that your car has traction control… Hope it does, it’s a real added boost.

“Step 6: ignore Robert Gift.”

In case the OP has never used tire chains, he/she should consider the following:
Do you REALLY want to have to lie on the cold, wet pavement in order to install chains, only to have to again prostrate yourself on the cold, wet pavement in order to remove those chains once you reach clear pavement, only to repeat the process when you next encounter deep snow, only to…

Since tire chains limit your top speed to…probably something like 30 mph…and since they should not be used on dry, clear roads, the use of tire chains is really limited to extreme situations. And, if you are not prepared to periodically lie on the pavement for installation and removal, then tire chains are not a practical suggestion.

Only Quebec has laws requiring winter tires, and only for cars registered there. If you have considerable experience driving in snow, just stay on the main roads and keep up with the weather reports. I spent 2 winters in Quebec without winter tires, and only the rural areas were difficult to reach.

The Quebec law was introduced to reduce the accident rate caused by the very “free-spirited” (reckless) driving style of Quebecers. The government’s main concern was not necessarily traction for your driving wheels.

" I’m on a limited budget . . . I have significant experience driving in real winter conditions but I’m also not a daredevil. "

Personally, I Wouldn’t Waste My Time Or Money On Winter Tires For A Visit.

I live where there are extreme winter driving conditions for nearly half the year and we run our many family cars on All-Season tires. As long as you have experience, you’ll be all set.

My information shows that winter tires in Quebec are required for “native” drivers from December 15 through March 15. However, I have read that the law does not apply to “out of Province” drivers.

I would talk with my insurance agent, though. Your insurance should be good there, but you are required to have a Canadian driving-insurance card. Also, be sure that your insurance is adequate to meet Canada’s fairly high minimum liabilty limits.

Why not check all this out with your insurance agent ?


No, you don’t need winter tires for 3 weeks.

I live in Minnesota and a large majority of people here drive year round on all-season tires.

We Live And Drive In Extrerme Winter Weather Conditions And Run Good All-Season Tires. We Have For Decades And Hundreds Of Thousands Of Miles. We’ve Never Been Stuck Or Stranded ( I Got Stuck At The End Of The Driveway One Time Returning In A Blizzard).

The Biggest Danger We Face In Winter Is Caused By Reduced Visibility Because Of Blowing Snow And Snow Fog ( Hangs In The Air At Extremely Cold Temps ), Not Because Of Poor Traction, Although I Drive Frequently On Ice, Slush, Snow, Etcetera.

Visibility, not traction, is the problem and I have yet to find a solution except to stay off the road and sometimes it’s not an option. My wife and I commute 100 miles / day in different directions and my 16 year-old 40 miles in another direction.

The fun will begin soon. It was 29F degrees this A.M. Oh, the joy. Feel the magic.


A valid driver’s license and proof of normal US insurance and car ownership is all you require. Quebec is not Mexico!

Docnick wrote:
A valid driver’s license and proof of normal US insurance and car ownership is all you require.

You are supposed to have a special Canadian insurance card, which you can get from your insurance agent, although I’m sure very few Americans know or do that.

lioncar; I’ve never heard of or met an American who came to Canada with a special “Canadian” insurance card. The policy itself will say where the insurance is valid, and it will in nearly all cases be Canada and the US, and specifically EXCLUDE Mexico for which seperate insurance is needed, for good reason. Car insurance is a provincial jurisdiction in Canada, and there are fines for not having valid insurance in most provinces.

Canadian Customs want you make sure you are the valid owner of the car, and your ownership certificate will be important.

You are supposed to have a special Canadian insurance card, which you can get from your insurance agent, although I’m sure very few Americans know or do that.

I was just in Canada about 3 weeks ago…Drove over the border ( as I have hundreds of times)…no problem what-so-ever. Never heard of any Canadian insurance card…and no one has ever asked me.

I also have a hard time believing that an insurance company in the US can issue a Canadian document.

Thanks to all for the replies.

On a side note, I’ve made the trip several times (though in summer). As a Canadian citizen, the only potentially sticky point at the customs is that they want to be sure I’m not coming back to stay --the concern of course is that I would have bought the car in the US for use in Canada, and avoided paying taxes in Canada. But otherwise, not problem --and my (US) insurance agent told me I was covered while driving in Canada.

I would be happy with the all season tyres, but I would be ready for problems.

Don’t assume that winter tyres are going to take care of the weather. If the weather is bad you can find yourself sleeping in the hallway of a motel. I look for a safe place as soon as the weather comes in. One of the best times I had was when a blizzard hit Ohio and I had to return from Ontario. I got about half way and decided it was time to pull off and find cover. Not long after that most travelers started looking for a bed. Many of them ended up in the hallways. In the morning I was told that if I could cook Everyone would eat. I did quite a few eggs and bacon that morning.

Like they taught me in Boy Scouts, be prepared.  Expect the worst.  A lot of people were on their own for 24 hours on the freeway.