Should I buy snow tires for one season?

Hello, I’m a college student in Western Mass from California. For my last year of college I decided to bring my 2007 Honda Fit Sport (FWD) from home. As winter approaches I’m deciding whether to buy snow tires. I consider myself a very safe driver (clean four year record), however, I’ve never driven in the snow. I am open to buying snow tires (all things lead me to think “better safe than sorry”), I’m just hesitant about what would happen to this big financial investment, especially considering I don’t plan on being in a snowy place next winter. Can they be resold?

I also have general questions, like where/how to buy, what happens to my current tires, what the average price for a tire change is, etc. Help out with a little 101 for a new winter driver? Thanks very much in advance.

If you plan to do much driving (like to ski) I’d get a set, go to and you can price out a set of 4 mounted on steel wheels. They list a set for $428 plus about $85 for shipping.

And they should be pretty easy to resell in MA.

I live in WI, and we get our fair share of snow, is fwd front wheel drive or four wheel drive? Either way we have never bought snowtires for the fwd(windstar van) or 4wd Trailblazer, or even for my 2wd toyota, etc. Sure they are great, but been living through winters since 76 without them.

In my time in the military, I’ve made many (enforced) moves into many climate changes and here are two pieces of advice to consider:

  1. When you get the next snowfall or freezing weather, consider finding an empty, wide, and deserted parking lot with lots of space between obstacles like light posts or speed bumps (we use a nearby high school). Then, maneuver your car around on the snow (using common sense, of course, and low enough speed). Put it into all kinds of situations – braking, sudden steering, intentional skids, etc. – and notice how speeding is not a good idea in bad weather. By the end of half an hour (sooner if you get chased away) you will be surprised how much better you know your car and its snow behavior.
  2. When you get more time, investigate a good driving school (if you know of any car clubs in the area you can check with them). Several years ago, I did this. I not only had an enjoyable day and a good break, I learned much about emergency driving dynamics and mindful driving, and (I think) became a much better (and happier) driver. IMHO this was a much better investment than just relying on high-tech tires.

We lived in eastern Mass for three years and bought four studded snow tires (you can probably find good used ones but make sure they are safe). They worked much better than two. You only need to use them once for them to pay for themselves. Good luck with college!

It’s your senior year at college, and you probably don’t need a vehicle to get to class. As long as you can afford to stay home or use public transportation when the weather is bad, you can probably make it through the winter without winter tires.

Think of it this way, you will get more studying done when the weather is too severe to drive on your all season tires.

I wouldn’t bother, especially for just one winter. Just drive carefully when the roads are slippery.

You wont be able to sell your used snow tires for anywhere near what you paid, if at all. Most people don’t know what size tire they need, or what to do once they get the tires.

. Another option is to purchase new all seasons that are rated good in snow. They won’t give you as good ice traction as winter tires and it will cost you a new set this year but I think it’s a compromise worth considering. I live in snow country and do the winter tire thing throughout most of the year. But, when when I buy my all season summer tires, I find them quite effective when new before I get snow tires on in December. As they wear in later years, their snow traction deteriorates rapidly; that’s not your concern though.
You just keep them on when you drive back to California.

Thanks everyone for the input. Satisficer, thanks for the tips. Yes, I’ll rarely be in a situation where I’ll NEED to be driving if it’s bad out (I’ve lived through three winters without a car). I don’t need one for class and there’s great public transportation.

However, I’m doing thesis work in a town 40 minutes from school that requires me to be there frequently. So, my academics will take a hit if I’m stuck on campus for a few months–which I don’t anticipate, remembering how frequently roads are plowed in the area (though I’m not sure about the area closer to the town where I’m working).

The tires currently on the car are about a year old (unsure about mileage). FWD is front wheel drive.

You did not mention what kind of tires you have now, but most radial tires do OK on snow and ice. I grew up in Iowa where the snow gets as high as your head and the snowpacked streets don’t wear down to the pavement for weeks at a time. Once radial tires replace bias ply tires around 1970, we stopped buying snow tires for the family car. The car still went 99% of the time and when it couldn’t, we used a tractor.

If you think that you might really need to travel in really deep snow, get some cable chains. Those will come in handy back in California if you travel through the mountains.

The advice to practice a little in a snowy parking lot to get to know your car was excellent advice. The scary part is going downhill.

In 35 years of driving I’ve never owned a set of snow tires. I don’t live in an area that usually gets huge snowfalls, but I have driven in as much as 12-14" of snow with all season radials and once drove a pickup without any weight in the rear 500 miles from NC-KY through the Smokey mountains with about 8" of snow on the roads. For the last 25 years prior to last winter I lived in the Charlotte, NC area where snow fall isn’t as likely as freezing rain and drove on ice slick roads usually 1-5 times per winter season and always drove on all season radials. The main thing to remember if driving on snow tires or regular all season tires is to keep your car at a speed you feel safe at, don’t do any sudden braking or steering maneuvers and don’t drive too close to the car in front of you risking a rear end collision. Depending on just how bad the roads are I usually drive between 35-45 MPH on snowy or icy roads. All season tires that are made today are much better than the snow tires my dad used in the 60’s and 70’s. The idea of finding an empty parking lot to drive around in is a good one, it will allow you to see how your car handles and allow you practice slick road maneuvers. Can also be lots of fun if you like to play on the snow/ice (not recommended if there are other cars or things you can damage or might damage your car). Another thing that is helpful if you are driving an automatic is slip the car into neutral when stopping that will stop the transmission from working against you when braking.

I’m in Minnesota and I think the last snow tires I bought were back in 1969. You should have all season radials though and front wheel drive makes a big difference. Each vehicle is a little different though so I’d sure wait and see. Also roads are cleared off very quickly so staying off the roads for a few hours or a day makes the most sense.

A lot should depend on how much driving you will be doing under snow conditions and can you put off that drive for a day or two when there will be less or no snow. Local driving conditions vary a lot. Where I live I can drive a 30 miles and go from little if any snow to an area that will have serious snow every winter many times.

"I consider myself a very safe driver . . . "

It’s not your driving that should concern you. It’s the drivers of the SUVs, large cars and trucks, skidding around and losing control that are the problem. You chose to drive a little car that can be creamed in a collision with these heavier vehicles. The trade-off is that you need to take precautions.

Leave the car parked when it’s slippery. Besides that, road salt will probably be applied to the roads and although it won’t immeciately harm your car, it will get into every nook and cranny in your car and fester there, causing damage in the future. It’s a shame to do that to any car for just one year’s need of transportation.

By the way, I live in ice, snow, salt country, and we drive larger cars. I have no need for snow tires. When the roads get bad enough to hamper travel, everything closes.


What is your present tread depth ? Get an inexpensive tire tread depth tool, not a penny. If it’s in the 8/32 range, and being less then a year old it , you may be in good shape. Have they been rotated so depth is balanced ? That may be all you need. Ice traction depends on composition, can’t do much about that. Snow traction, given the tread design you have to live with, is about tread depth…check it out. Practice, practice and know you and your car’s limitations. That’s more important then anything else you can do at this point. If it snows, have alternate routes in mind that have fewer hills and better road maintenance too.

Snow tires are like buying insurance. Assessing your need is not a “one-size-fits-all” decision.
Many do fine without snow tires, and it’s true that most roads are cleared very quickly after the snowfall stops.

I am a big believer in having four good winter tires on at least one of the family vehicles, for several reasons.
After many times years ago finding myself driving during a snow storm without good winter tires, I got tired of either getting stuck or scaring myself to death when applying the brakes.

Since getting four good winter tires, there have been numerous occasions where my wife was driving home from work in snow, or we’ve found ourselves having to drive during deep snowstorms. Having good snow tires made all the difference.

If the improved braking ability of four good winter snow tires helps you to prevent an accident or injury, then you just paid for those tires many times over.

Western MA…especially in the Berkshires can get a fair amount of snow. Driving in the mountains during a snow storm can be “Fun”…If you don’t do a lot of skiing then you probably won’t need snow tires…Good all season tires should be fine. Just stay at home/dorm when it snows.

If you can arrange your schedule to wait for the roads to be plowed, then I think you’ll be okay with all-season tires, as long as they have good tread. What is your current tread depth?

Winter tires would be ideal, of course, but I think a lot of people are overlooking that you probably have no place to store your summer tires.

@didnathgual, maybe you can telecommute for your thesis work on days when it is too dangerous to drive.

"@didnathgual, maybe you can telecommute for your thesis work on days when it is too dangerous to drive."
I Saw That One Time In The Original Movie “The Fly” And It Had A Dire Outcome. I Hope It’s Perfected, Now.