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Summer, winter and all-season tyres: what’s the difference?

As you’ll no doubt already have guessed, all-season tyres are designed to offer a balance between the various performance and comfort trade-offs of summer and winter versions.

As such, all-season tyres might be seen as something of a handy compromise. To an extent, that’s true. They offer ‘middle-ground’ performance in a wider range of conditions. While all-season tyres won’t be the optimal choice in any one specific set of driving conditions, some people prefer to use them primarily as a way to avoid more frequent tyre changes.

However, there’s more to consider than just convenience if you’re looking to buy all-season tyres online.

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When can I use all-season tyres?

It’s important to be aware that all-season tyres, though suitable for a broader range of weathers and temperatures than either summer or winter tyres, aren’t perfect in every scenario.

In fact, they’re not perfect under any conditions - that’s essentially the trade-off you make for being able to leave them on longer! To help illustrate this, let’s look at the main characteristics and differences between summer tyres, winter tyres, and all-season tyres:

Summer tyres

  • Harder and more durable compound, designed to soften slightly on warmer roads
  • Shallow tread pattern and fewer sipes - reduced rolling resistance, smoother ride
  • Good performance on both wet and dry roads at temperatures above 5-7C

Winter tyres

  • Softer compound, designed to remain supple for better grip in the cold
  • Deep tread pattern and more sipes - higher rolling resistance, lower fuel economy
  • Better handling response and braking distance in slippery conditions

All-season tyres

  • Medium strength compound, suitable for use in moderate climates and conditions
  • Deeper tread depth than summer tyres, but not as robust or grippy as winter tyres
  • Balanced performance
    • Some reduction in steering, braking, and cornering versus summer tyres in mild conditions, due to their increased winter capabilities
    • Less reliable than a dedicated winter tyre in freezing temperatures

What’s the advantage of having all-season tyres fitted?

In short, all-season tyres can be a very handy solution if you do most of your driving in mild or moderate conditions. With a good set of budget all-season tyres fitted, you may find you can avoid the need to change them with the weather, provided you’re not going to be encountering anything too extreme.

In theory, all-season tyres are designed precisely for the ‘average’ driver and vehicle. In practice, of course, there’s no one driver or vehicle that is exactly average. That’s why all-season tyres tend to offer something of a compromise, aimed at a broader middle ground.

They offer moderate tread depths and mid-strength rubber compounds, with decent overall performance, economy and ride quality. They’re available to be fitted to many different models, sizes, load and speed ratings - including as 4x4 tyres - and generally offer reasonable handling and braking across a fairly wide range of conditions.

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Ratings from A-G
A = Best Fuel Economy

WET GRIP wet grip

Ratings from A-G
A = Best wet weather

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The lower the decibel,
the quieter the tyre