If you are heading for snowy climes in the winter months you are almost certain to ponder the question - winter tyres or snow chains. It's a question that raises different responses from different authorities but here is my take on the situation.
The key thing to remember is that you are responsible for ensuring your car is fit for the road locations. In some countries you have no choice but to have winter tyres fitted to your car in any case - Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Austria are all examples of countries where either the use of winter tyres is compulsory, or where the wording of the law gives local police such wide ranging powers to decide on whether winter tyres should be used or not if it would take a very brave driver to decide to drive in the country on standard tyres.
In some countries, particularly those who have parts of the country where winter tyres would be deemed to be unnecessary (think Italy or France) they have more liberal rules. There you could drive on summer tyres just as long as you have chains on board to fit should the weather change.
In, say, Germany you will find your rental car comes fitted with winter tyres automatically fitted. In other countries you need to check what is included in the price already.
If you are heading for higher altitudes you are likely to find signs indicating you should have winter tyres fitted or snow chains on board.
So which do I opt for?
Well in some places you don't have a choice and winter tyres will be fitted on a mandatory basis.
If not and cost is the primary concern then snow chains will keep you legal.
But - and its a big but - if you need to fit them and you are on a dark road at night you will be lucky to fit chains successfully without a struggle unless you are a practised hand. Trust me I know!
And most winters I hear from car hirers seeking advice after being charged for damage to the brakes or underbody of their rental car caused by poor fitting of snow chains.users who have
My personal preference is therefore to got for winter tyres. They function better in colder conditions, and unless snowfall is heavy will cope with most driving conditions.
But should you have both?
If however I am heading for areas renowned for extreme conditions or I know that heavy snowfall is forecast I would consider snow chains as well. To date I have not ended up with both, and would, wherever possible seek assistance in fitted them (a €10 tip would be well worth a helping hand) but it's certainly better safe than sorry.
Again this comes back to the key responsibility to ensure your car is fit for the conditions - and in newly fallen deep snow you will find that snow tyres fall short.
If you are looking for cars with snow chains do try Clarify Car Hire - where in countries such as Italy where some cars come with winter tyres and some don't you can select filters showing prices with tyres fitted.
And in any event don't drive in the winter without excess insurance - either from the car hire company directly, or through a third party independent policy such as those compared at moneymaxim.co.uk.
Any questions? Why not 'Ask Mark'?