What are all-season tyres?
With the colder, wetter months afoot and road conditions deteriorating, could all-season tyres make more sense than summer or winter tyres?
UK weather is unpredictable at best, with the day’s forecast often completely different to what’s happening on the other side of your windowpane. With climate change, our summers are becoming hotter and our winters are becoming more severe, you might be wondering how to get the best grip from your tyres at all times. The answer may lie with a set of all-season tyres.
They’re not as extreme as the knobbly off-road tyres in the picture above but are designed to cope with hot and cold weather equally well. Normal ‘summer’ tyres don’t offer the best grip when the mercury plummets, so some drivers opt for a set of winter tyres in the colder months.
However, with summer tyres performing best in temperatures above seven degrees and winter tyres in colder conditions, swapping tyres twice a year can be a hassle. Plus, it means you either need two sets of wheels and somewhere to store the spare set, or having to pay a tyre fitter twice a year to swap the tyres on your wheels.
That’s where a set of all-season tyres could prove the best option. These tyres provide a good balance grip in cold, snowy conditions and performance in warmer weather - you could end up with the best of both worlds.
All-season tyres - also known as all-weather tyres - can, as the name suggests, be used throughout the whole year, come rain or shine, snow or ice.
But before investing a considerable sum in a set of new tyres, it pays to know what you’re looking for. This will enable you to understand the different options on offer so you can get the best value for money and best-performing tyres for your car.
This guide to all-season tyres explains what they are, how they work and how much they cost, so you can decide whether they’re suitable for your car and the type of driving you do.
Are all-season tyres different to normal tyres?
All-season tyres have been available since the late ’70s and the simple idea is to start with a summer tyre that performs well in warmer temperatures and incorporate elements of the tread pattern and materials from winter tyres. This compromise means they are suitable for year-round use, on everything from warm, dry Tarmac to chilly, snow-covered roads.
However, they are a compromise. A summer tyre will give better grip and shorter stopping distances in good weather conditions, and even on warm, wet roads, while a winter tyre is superior when winter weather comes. So, if you live in a part of the country that’s regularly disrupted by snowfall and ice, a dedicated set of winter tyres may be preferable. But the convenience and potential cost saving that all-season tyres offer is an appealing proposition, especially if your mileage is low.
Do all-season tyres offer more grip in winter?
The rubber used for an all-season tyre uses a different mix of ingredients and they have a specially designed tread pattern compared with summer tyres.
Those ingredients include a special resin that performs better in cold conditions, and more silica, which also helps to keep the rubber of the tread flexible in cold conditions. Normal tyres, meanwhile, effectively become brittle, and skate over the road surface, meaning longer braking distances and less grip when cornering.
The tread pattern is different, too. The shoulders have an open pattern to disperse water and slush and there are additional sipes (tiny openings) to help find grip on slippery surfaces, while the tread blocks are reasonably stiff to help give stable roadholding on dry roads.
How much do all-season tyres cost?
Remember, the whole idea of fitting your car with all-season tyres is you only have to buy them once - obviously they will need replacing eventually. The initial cost may sting but you can take comfort in the extra grip you’ll have. It is inadvisable to drive in winter with summer tyres and vice versa, so you'll be forking out for both sets if you forgo the all-season option.
Part-worn tyres are temptingly cheap but we strongly recommend staying well clear of them. After all, your tyres are the only part of the car connected to the road, and you don’t know what condition part-worn tyres are really in. They could end up putting you in danger, so a new set of all-season tyres is an expense worth paying for. The cost of a set will depend on the size of wheel that’s on your car, as it varies from model to model.
Using a Ford Fiesta, the UK’s bestselling car, as an example, one of the most common tyre sizes for a 2016 model is what's referred to as '195/55 R15' - which fits 15-inch wheels.
Go for a set of all-season tyres and you can expect to pay from around £55 to £126 per tyre, including fitting costs. Summer tyres in the same size, meanwhile, range from around £47 to £136 per tyre. Winter tyres in that size, on the other hand, vary from around £49 to £126 per tyre, including fitting.
So you'll be paying slightly more for the cheapest all-season option, however, if you're after a strong-performing tyre from an upmarket brand, you can expect to pay around £79 for a summer tyre, £86 for an all-season tyre and £96 for a winter tyre.
A larger, equally popular car is the Nissan Qashqai. All-season rubber for a 2016 model with what's known as a '215/60 R17' tyre - for 17-inch wheels - will range from £75 to £195 per tyre, fitted. Summer tyres range from £59 to £171 per tyre while winter tyres in this size come in at £62 to around £210.
If you're aiming for an expensive brand though, it's £109 for a summer tyre, £119 for an all-season and £113 per tyre for a winter tyre.
So you're not having to pay an awful lot more to get an all-season tyre. With such a difference between the best and worst tyres of each type, however, it's very important to pick a strong-performing tyre to ensure your car offers strong grip and braking. Visit Auto Express for a roundup of the best-performing all-season tyres.
Which all-season tyres are the best?
With the tyres you choose affecting how much grip you have, how much fuel your car gets through and even how long they last. Picking higher quality tyres will not only help to keep you safe, but could save you money, too.
Auto Express conducted a comprehensive comparison test of all-season tyres, in winter, wet and summer driving conditions. Of the six makes assessed back-to-back here, the experts rated the Continental All Season Contact the best, followed by the Michelin Cross Climate+ and the Goodyear Vector 4Seasons.
Do all-weather tyres affect insurance?
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says most vehicle insurers don’t require policyholders to inform them they have fitted all-season or winter tyres to their vehicle. And the good news is that they won’t charge a greater premium, provided ‘the tyres are roadworthy and have been fitted in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.’