Posts Tagged ‘winter tires’

The weather has been, shall we say, somewhat poor here in Calgary this year and I have certainly seen my fair share of accidents and near misses on the roads. Like most people it seems, I was always under the impression that all season tires were good enough, especially because I have a crossover SUV with AWD.

However, this year, while drinking way too much wine with my fellow urban dwellers, we got onto the discussion of snow tires and their benefits for city driving. After some long debates (and someone intoxicated online research) we came across a series of youtube videos that showed a winter tire demonstration by Transport Canada. There is a series of videos, you can find them here.

While nursing my red wine hangover the next morning, I began to do some research on the differences between summer and winter tires, their benefits, and of course, the cost.

I think the most important detail I learned was that winter tires are made of a completely different type of rubber, one that is much softer and designed to grip in the snow. The most simplistic and informative article I found on this was from 1010tire.com: The Complete Winter Tire Guide. You should note that industry standards have been created to brand winter tires with a snowflake indicating they are approved for severe snow standards.

So after an hour of cruising the net and from my previous nights discussions, I had convinced myself I wanted some. Next up was to find the best deal.

To save you the headache, the cheapest tires you can find anywhere are on tirerack.com. Really, I am an extreme bargain shopper, I spent hours searching and I’m not even going to detail the other sites I found because nothing came close to the discount you can get at Tire Rack (no I’m not getting paid for this!). So I chose a top rated and affordable winter tire: General Grabber Altimax Arctic. I researched the heck out of my tires and found the price point, rating and reviews to be exactly what I was looking for. Including shipping, the total cost was more than 20% cheaper than I could find anywhere in Calgary and the surrounding area. Shipping was wicked fast too, UPS direct in less than 5 days from Nevada.

Next up, I needed to get these installed on my vehicle.

Most people who have winter tires use a spare set of rims to save them the cost of having to take the tire off the rim and put the second set on (which would require balancing). This makes alot of financial sense, winter rims cost around $60-100 per rim depending on what size you require, and you would need four of course. In my case, the best price I could find was $84.99/rim. Unfortunately, tire rack didn’t sell any ultra cheap winter rims but if they did I would have definitely purchased them as well as they would have installed and balanced the tire to the rim before shipping.

So, to compare these options: the average cost to swap and balance your tires is around $80 (the dealership wanted $120) so if you were to remove, install and balance your tires twice per year (summer and winter) you would be paying $160 per year. Now that I am only using my tires 6 months a year on average, I expect each set to last around 4 years. This means that $160/year x 4 years is $640 in swapping fees, $300 more than the cost of the rims, which should last you the life of your vehicle or more.

But there is one problem with this scenario; black steel winter rims are SUPER ugly. Call me vain, but I don’t want my vehicle to look ugly for 6 months of the year. Is this ugliness worth the $160/year in swapping fees though? Hellll no! So what did I do? I started calling up some of the auto wreckers in the city to see if they had the same model of my vehicle. In most cases, these vehicles have been written off in an accident and they buy them from that person and sell them out for parts. I managed to locate my car and wouldn’t you know it, all four rims were still on the vehicle, they wanted $300 for all four.

When I swung by the shop to check them out, I found that they still had tires on them, an amazing set of tires actually: Goodyear Wrangler Silent Armour with more than 80% of the tread remaining. In doing my research, I had come across these tires and learned that they are one of the few all-season tires that actually carries the winter snowflake as well. So I had to ask…$500 all in. Wow, what a deal. Turns out, a friend of mine was looking for some tires for his SUV as well and just as luck would have it, the tires fit his vehicle perfectly. Using my superior bargaining skills, I managed to walk out of there with all four rims and tires for $425. We split in down the middle, a great deal for both of us!

More bargain hunting. I needed to get these tires off the rims and my new winter tires installed on them. Ahh Kijiji. Ambitious people with skilled trades who are looking to make a little extra cash always post their services on Kijiji. I found an add for tire swapping: $15/tire to swap and balance. Awesome. Swung by the shop, found it to be a small father and son operation; desk, shop, tires. Simple. If you live in Calgary and want details I will 100% recommend these guys, they were fast, efficient and cheap. In fact, they even had dozens of used tires for sale. Go figure. It totally makes me happy to support a local business rather than the big dealer or tire giants.

I now have my winter tires on an identical set of rims installed on my vehicle for more than 25% cheaper than I could have found in Calgary. Here is the breakdown for comparison:

Local ‘tire’ spot
Winter tires: $683.69 + tax
Steel rims: $84.99 x 4 = $339.69 + tax
Installation: $100
Total: $1123.38 + tax

Tire rack + auto wreckers
Winter tires: $372.00 + tax
Shipping: $147.70 + tax
Provincial Fee: $16.00 (something Tire Rack charges)
Brokerage Fee: $20.00 (another Tire Rack add-on)
Used alloy rims: $212.25 + tax
Installation: $60 (included tax)
Total: $827.95 + tax

So all in I saved 26.3%. A little research and leg work can go a long way!

I hope this story inspires you to save some money and research some skilled labour that you can find locally instead of going to the big business service shops!

And in case you’re wondering…the new tires are AMAZING! I had no idea how much different driving with proper winter tires could be! This is a great purchase for the safety of not only yourself but your passengers and those on the road around you.


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