Car hire winter tires

Does your car hire include winter tires? If you’re driving in wintery conditions, you’ll need suitable tires fitted to you car. When we lived in New Hampshire we had to swap our tires as winter arrived to ensure we stayed safe with snow on the road. Where’s that carjack…

Different types of tire

If you grew up driving in a country that didn’t experience snow in the winter, you may not realise that you actually have different kinds of tires to suit different seasons. Grip and traction are reduced at lower temperature, which negatively affects the performance and safety of the car, hence you fit different tires in colder temperatures to improve performance and safety.

Generally, winter tires should be used when the temperature falls below around 7 deg. celsius, as this is the temperature point at which winter tires perform better than summer tires. See the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada for more details.

Originally there were ‘summer’ and ‘snow’ tires, which provided optimal grip for their respective seasons. The tire industry then developed ‘all-season’ tires which provided a compromise regarding durability and performance across all seasons, and allowed drivers to avoid a tire swap each year. Now the market mainly consists of ‘summer’, ‘all-season’, and ‘winter’ tires. As a driver, if you experience treacherous winter conditions, you’ll probably opt for summer and winter tires. But if you only experience a bit of snow occasionally and don’t want the hassle of changing tires, you’ll probably opt for all-season tires.

What are the rules in BC?

According to the BC government most BC highways can experience wintery conditions (snow, ice) from October onwards. Therefore you must use a legal winter tire during October to April.

A legal winter tire is defined as having 3.5mm of tread depth, and a label on the tire showing either:

Mud + Snow3-Peak Snowflake

M+S indicates some degree of all-season capabilities, whereas the 3-peak mountain snowflake labelled tires indicates heavy-duty winter tire status. Both are legal for winter travel, however the 3-peak mountain snowflake symbol will give better performance on snow and ice.

Will my car hire have winter tires?

Reputable car hire companies will comply with the legal requirements in the area they are located. This means that you should expect to see M+S rated tires on all vehicles between October and April in BC. You’ll probably see M+S tires on all vehicles outside of this time of year too, as it’s often not economical to change tires through the year (and store the spare set all year too).

Car companies tend to have true winter (3-peak label) tires available on request, but expect to pay more for them and put in a custom request. Enterprise comment that, “Winter tires are offered during certain months and based on availability at the rental location. If you wish to request winter tires ahead of your vehicle reservation date, please contact the rental office directly for availability and pricing.”

What about car-sharing services in Vancouver?

Both car-sharing companies remaining in Vancouver meet BC’s laws, as outlined above.

Evo cover this in their FAQ here and state that, “All Evo vehicles are also outfitted with Mud and Snow tires which meet BC’s winter tire requirements”. I’ve found Evo sufficient for popping up to Cypress in the winter, but didn’t feel comfortable driving to Manning Park.

Modo have a blog post here about their fleet’s winter readiness. It’s worth noting that approximately 20% of their fleet runs heavy duty winter tires (not just M+S), and their fleet consists of vehicles with greater ground clearance and 4-wheel drive. Perfect for trips in the winter that may stray away from main roads, or if the conditions become a bit more severe.

Case study for BATC and winter tires

In our review of the awesome Hyundai Kona electric car, we noted on our trip to go cross-country skiing that, “Once we arrived at Callaghan we parked up, noting that the car handled the snowy and icy surface without any issues. The Kona comes with all season tires as standard, and Modo ensure mud and snow (M+S) tires on their vehicles. So they’re good for most trips during the winter.” You can read that article here if you like:

Hyundai Kona electric review Canada

Conclusion

Different types of tires are required to ensure safe performance in summer and winter weather conditions. Reputable car hire companies should comply with local legal requirements, so for most typical journeys your M+S all-season tires should be OK for winter driving. If you think you’re going to see very snowy conditions, need extra ground clearance, 4-wheel drive capability, you may want to consider heavy duty winter tires (3-peak mountain snowflake symbol). You’ll need to speak to your local car hire desk to see if these are available, or try out Modo and book once of their heavy duty winter tire equipped vehicles.

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