With the snow season just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about winter tires again.  I don’t know about the area that you live, but here in Newfoundland, the snow can get pretty intense which makes snow tires an essential added cost to owning a vehicle.  As we own a compact car and an SUV, the cost of getting tires can really add up, so looking for ways to save money can result in a few dollars back in my pocket.

Here are some of the ways that we save money on winter tires:

Shop Around

This is perhaps the most obvious option to getting the best price on snow tires, and something that I always do when making big ticket purchases.  What has surprised me is that the dealerships that I have dealt with are all very competitive with their tire pricing, so make sure get a quote from them as well.  I know others who have purchased their tires online and have saved hundreds (if not thousands over the years).  For Costco members out there, I know that they typically have a coupon on winter tires, so make sure to give them a call as well.

Size Down

Most cars/SUV’s these days have over sized tires, but the problem is that over sized tires are expensive and may not  be the best for winter traction.  It may seem that the larger the tire, the better the traction, but in fact it’s the narrower the tire, the better the traction as it’s gives greater force per square inch of tire.  With that in mind, sizing down the tire may save money and give better traction.

Sizing down the tire isn’t as simple as getting a tire that’s one inch smaller in diameter as the speedometer would be off, and it may not fit the brake calipers.  What I’ve used is a tire calculator online to see which tire sizes match.  Better yet, call your local tire expert and they’ll be able to tell you pretty easily which tires will work with your model.

To give an example of how much sizing down the tire can save, when pricing 17″ tires for my SUV tires at Costco, the equivalent 16″ tires were about 10% lower in cost.

Buying a Car? Negotiate Winter Tires

One thing we have done in the past is use winter tires are part of the negotiation when purchasing a vehicle.  If the dealer is willing to negotiate, then it’s pretty common to get winter tires thrown into the deal, or at the very least give you the tires at dealer cost.

Consider Buying Used

If you use kijiji or other online classified service, there you may find a good deal on a set of winter tires.  Just be sure to get the details before the purchase, and make sure to get a close look at the tread depth/life remaining.  Note that the rubber on winter tires tend to harden over the years, so besides tread depth, verify that they are fairly new.  Personally, buying a used set of tires is not at my comfort level, but there are good deals out there if you’re willing to do your own due diligence.

If you’ve gone through the process of looking for the best deals on tires, how do you save money on winter tires?

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10 years ago

I’m very skeptical about the claim that narrower tires are better. While the argument that they work better in deep snow sounds plausible, there has to be a limit to this and the usefulness seems like a tradeoff. If the snow is very deep, you risk getting stuck if you sink too deeply (this is one of the ways to get stuck in the first place). This is why snowshoes work. This is also why you see big, fat tires on almost every vehicle designed to operate in the snow. Also, being that it normally only snows some of the time, the rest of the time the road surface is usually hard packed snow/ice. Skinny tires are not going to help you there and could only hurt.

For these reasons I severly doubt the merrit of what is being passed off here as a blanket rule. I caution anybody to do their own research and consider the driving conditions they will be experiencing the most before they buy.

10 years ago

tires on rims pay for themselves in two years? and then? new tires after three years will need mounting, so there will be no benefit in the third year, and when I sell my car two years later, the rims will be worth almost nothing unless i buy a car with the same size rims.

i am still not convinced that rims are cheaper, especially if you change your car every 5 years. I buy 3 year old cars and ride them for 6 years. are rims a better option in this circumstance?

10 years ago

If you go the dealer route, call at least a handfull. Each dealer often sources their tires from different suppliers and not from the car manufacturers. For example, I have 2 Mazdas and their is one dealer in the Toronto area whose owner is also a Pirelli importer. So, their prices on Pirelli tires are cheaper than other dealer’s low end tires.

10 years ago

Talking about tires, here’s an excellent episode on tires from the ABC News few years back. It talks about the importance of checking the dates on tires that FT mentioned above.


10 years ago

Great tips from all posters!

One thing that is important to mention when installing your winter tires/rims on your car yourself: RETORQUE YOUR WHEEL NUTS!

After drive for 100 km or so, retighten all your wheel nuts. The can and usually will back themselves off from the initial torque they had upon installation.

Saving money by doing it yourself doesn’t help anything if your wheels fall off on the highway!

Thicken My Wallet
10 years ago

I buy mine used from a garage. If you buy a new car with different sized tire, some garages will take trade-ins.

10 years ago

There is no better deal on winter tires than to buy them used from Kijiji. Your comfort level tells you not to buy used. When you buy a used car you get used tires… Buying new from ANY place adds on huge markup+tax. Some places offer slightly better deals than others but all know how to markup their tires otherwise they will soon be out of business. You REALLY can get a good deal when you buy from someone off Kijiji who does not know what their winter tires are worth and who has sold their vehicle and the winter tires no longer fit their new vehicle and they want to get rid of the space they take up. Plus usually these tires are already balanced and on rims waiting for the next winter season. It’s easy to tell the quality of tire and the tread life left. It’s easy to save well over 60-80% off of someone who buys the exact same rubber new.

Stefan Alexander
10 years ago

Just got mine put on yesterday. A few interesting points:

1. My mechanic found a supplier clearing out last year’s Blizzak tire, $98 instead of $150 for this year’s model. So see if there’s any inventory left over from last year. Also, he said they start clearing out last year’s inventory at the beginning of August, so try to start looking then.

2. Canadian Tire often has cheap rims, $30 or so (which is about half price) but these are a lot thinner metal than the better rims and can dent easily if you hit a piece of ice or hard snow, so it may be better to buy the thicker ones.

3. Tire width is one spec, and it’s good to pay attention to this, as one poster correctly pointed out wide tires can float on snow, narrower tires will cut through better. However the diameter is a different spec (according to my understanding), the tire will be the same outer diameter, but the inner diameter is different. So your rims will be a different size. And this is mostly about aesthetics vs. price (in most cases). My car has 16″ tires, but I went to 15″ for the winter tires. Performance is about the same, they just don’t look as cool, but saved around $50 per tire in my case. But you get to choose diameter and width separately.

10 years ago

On your doorsill, the manufacturer will mark the standard tire size and one or two acceptable other sizes. Usually one of those will be a smaller size useable for winter.