tread trends: a tire-buying guide for drivers

Canadians see it all on the roads — extreme temperature shifts, heavy storms, slippery and rocky terrain (and that was just Monday). Stay ready with this guide to choosing the right tires.

when to start shopping for tires

Replace your tires as soon as you notice signs of wear and tear, such as these common red flags:

  • Your tires' tread depth is too shallow (less than 1.6 mm deep) — here's how to measure: stick an upside-down penny in the tread space; if the top of the Queen's head is entirely visible, time to lose those tires
  • Your car can't grip the road in water (hydroplaning)
  • Your car is vibrating when in motion
  • There are cracks or bulges in the tire's sidewall
  • The tread wear indicators are showing on the tires

Even if you don't spot these indicators, tires should still be replaced every 6 to 10 years. The harsh conditions and major kilometres you ask them to handle year after year take their toll, and you always want to be on the safe side.

where to get new tires in canada

The same as with auto coverage, shopping for tires can be done right online. Many reputable tire dealers make choosing the right tires easy, allowing you to simply plug in your car's make and model and your postal code to get a range of options. And if you prefer the human touch, there are plenty of 3-dimensional tire stores that can help you snag a new set, of course.

choosing the right tires

There are a few factors that come into play when determining if you have the right set of tires:

The season

Winter tires are customary for most in Canada — their superior traction make them a smart choice for the long stretches when the temperature is below freezing or winter precipitation is high. However, you may have seen people using winter tires at other times of the year (or even done it yourself). This is a definite no-no, as winter tires are not meant for year-long use.

During the other seasons, all-terrain or high-performance tires are both potential choices, the former offering prime adaptability on varying surfaces (but a louder ride) and the latter bringing superior wet/dry performance in high temperatures.

Many drivers simply prefer all-season tires. These can remain on through most of the year as long as weather conditions aren't too extreme. Most all-season tires won't have the traction for the snowiest and iciest months, so it's wise to still consider winter tires when the time comes.

The distance you drive

If you have a long commute 5 days a week, any way to achieve better fuel economy is welcome. Most companies nowadays produce a line of energy-efficient tires. They have thinner sidewalls and shallower tread to cut back weight and rolling resistance, which means more efficient fuel consumption (and more savings at the pump).

No matter what tires you have, keeping them inflated correctly, as per the listing in your owner's manual, can save you roughly $100 a year on gas. (Neat, eh?)

The way you drive

Some tires may fit your driving style better than others. For instance, smaller tires with larger sidewalls make for a smooth, comfy ride if you travel long distances. For tighter handling, meanwhile, bigger performance tires might be your thing (keep in mind these aren't meant for all seasons).

The familiarity factor

If you were pleased with your last set, don't fix what isn't broken. Simply replace them with the same set, provided they're appropriate for the season and your current driving habits.

keep your accident risk (and car insurance premium) low

Your tires are one of your first lines of defence against unnecessary accidents (and car insurance claims). So by choosing the best set for you and staying incident-free on the road, the lower your car insurance rates tend to slide.

Start a free car insurance quote directly online with Esurance and see what your safe driving can save you.