Improvements in technology mean you run some winter tyres all year round, decent ones at least, without a major penalty in the summer months. They last as long as summer tyres and are equally fuel efficient.
The secret’s in the ‘sipes’. Winter tyres have ten times as many sets of sipes, which are like teeth and, unlike a summer tyre, their jaws don’t stiffen up in the cold. You cannot believe their effectiveness until you try them. At 30mph in snow, winter tyres need only 30-metres to stop a car compared to 60-metres for a summer tyre. On ice, a winter tyres stops a car from 20mph in 26-metres, while a summer tyre requires 46-metres.
Acceleration figures in dry conditions are fairly even between both tyre types, but in the snow you benefit from a tripling in performance with winters when you pull away from low speed, and they work much better on hills.
Whether you fit them or not is a close call. In the far north of England and Scotland especially, there’s a ground frost for more than half of the year based on averages across the last thirty years. That means you’re definitely better off on winters. For the rest of the UK, the frost falls to about a third of the time. We have two cars in my family, one on summers, the other on winters ready for the white-out.