With winter just around the corner for Canadians, many are likely dreading the age-old problem of driving in snow, but a new study shows one in three are considering not investing in winter tires due to the ongoing cost of living crisis facing the country.
The Canadian Consumer Winter Tire Study, conducted by Leger and commissioned by the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC), found that while a large majority of the country use the tires equipped for snowy and icy roads, there’s still 31 per cent who say they’re facing costs that make winter tires a difficult purchase to make.
The study does note even with that difficulty, a large majority — 85 per cent — believe winter tires are an important investment despite that rising cost of living, meaning it may put some at odds with whether to invest or not.
“People are concerned about their finances, but also they recognize the advantages of winter tires on Canadian roads,” Michal Majernik, manager of communications with TRA Canada said in an interview.
That advantage was shown in the study, with 81 per cent of Canadians driving with winter tires noting they felt they saved them from either an accident or losing control of their vehicle when on snowy or slippery roads.
Majernik said Canadians are aware that winter tires work and as Canadians continue to face more severe weather, including snowstorms, knowing what tools they can use can be helpful, though amid ongoing inflation it’s not without issue.
“We have more severe storms perhaps and we do have winter tires and Canadians are aware that winter tires will work and they provide the safety advantages when driving in inclement weather,” he said.
“At the same time, we are sort of facing the issues of finding money to stay safe on the roads. It’s a perfect storm in some ways, I guess.”
Recent polling conducted exclusively for Global News last month by Ipsos Public Affairs shows Canadians are cutting back on various costs due to cost of living including holiday gifts and travel. The poll found nearly 80 per cent said inflation and rising interest rates have had a “significant” impact on holiday budgets. Another 77 per cent saying they don’t plan on travelling over the holiday period with a majority again pointing to inflation.
Earlier this month, Statistics Canada also reported one in three Canadians say they are living in households with financial difficulties with people aged 15 and older reporting they were having difficulty paying for even necessary expenses such as transportation, housing, food and clothing throughout October. In addition to that, 41.3 per cent of renters said they were more likely to struggle financially compared with those living in a residence owned by a mortgage holder.
Kristine D’Arbelles, senior director of public affairs at the Canadian Automobile Association, stressed the importance of getting the tires because of the safety they can provide and the sense of protection drivers feel knowing they have them.
But she said with finances tight for many, there are other tips that people can follow if they just cannot afford winter tires right now.
These include leaving more distance between you and the vehicle in front of you even moreso than you normally would in non-winter months, and not following your GPS when it comes to how much time it will take you to get to your destination.
“Assume it’s going to take you longer, because often collisions happen when people are stressed, rushed, not paying attention, distracted,” she said in an interview.
D’Arbelles added that speed limits on roads should also be followed cautiously because they are more directed at speeds in “ideal temperatures,” not winter weather, which is why someone driving in a 100 km/h zone should travel slower than that as the faster you’re going, the longer it will take for you to stop.
How many Canadians use winter tires varies from region to region, though no matter what part of the country you’re living in, more than 60 per cent use the product, with Quebec having the highest number as they are the only jurisdiction to require winter tires by law. B.C. does require them as well, but only for when driving on most highways. But outside that province, Atlantic Canada sits at the next highest in usage with 94 per cent of residents driving, with B.C. and Alberta both sitting at 73 per cent.
Ontario, meanwhile, only has about two-thirds — or 67 per cent — using winter tires while Manitoba and Saskatchewan see 64 per cent of their drivers utilizing them. The survey did not include data from the territories.
When it came to why Canadians used the product, 83 per cent of Canadians said protecting their families’ safety was the primary reason, with another 34 per cent citing winter tires being mandatory as the cause.
It’s why Deloitte Canada’s national retail leader, Marty Weintraub, said purchasing winter tires can often come down to personal choice in households and whether they see them as a discretionary purchase or a necessity.
“In some cases it’s pretty clear whether something is, you know, a need or want,” he said in an interview. “Winter tires is interesting because I would say it depends on who you’re talking to.
“Winter tires in some households are going to be perceived as something ‘I got to figure out how to get because of the safety issue, I drive my kids to school or whatever, and I don’t want to take that risk.’ But there’s also segments out there that say, ‘You know what, for just this one year, I’ll probably get by without it and maybe drive slower, be more careful and yes, take some more risk.”