Are winter tires really worth it?

It’s an inescapable autumnal rite. Thousands of Canadians are agonizing over whether to get their winter tires now or wait until the first snow warning.

That is, if they have winter tires. Thousands more will debate whether to buy a set or roll the dice with their all-season rubber.

Winter-tire use rose dramatically between 1998 and 2014, according to a survey commissioned and released two years ago by the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC), going from 35 per cent to 65 per cent. But if you remove Quebec’s near 100 per cent usage rate, the national average shrank to only 50 per cent.

The association plans to issue updated results this year but Barry Yutronkie, its director of operations, said a quick look shows the trend has levelled off.

“We do have some preliminary numbers,” Yutronkie told Globe Drive. “It looks like there’s a slight uptick from the last report, higher utilization – it’s basically jumped up one per cent.

“From what I’m seeing, it’s fairly flat as far as utilization is concerned.”

It’s a “slow march,” concedes Graham Jeffery, Canadian Tire’s assistant vice-president for tires and automotive outdoor adventure. Few people get to compare the difference in braking and handling directly between all-seasons and winter tires, he said, unless they attend a tire demonstration.

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