Winter tyres are specially developed for ice, snow and mud and have better grip.

Winter Tire Criteria: What to Consider When Buying New Tires

Once snow, slush, and ice cover the roads, winter tires become indispensable. As the sole contact point with the road, they influence braking performance, cornering stability, and traction. They provide improved grip and reduce the risk of accidents in winter road conditions. However, there are numerous factors to consider when purchasing winter tires. We’ll guide you through the criteria that matter to ensure that company car drivers can navigate safely in snow, slush, and ice.

What is the purpose of winter tires?

Winter tires have a significantly shorter braking distance on slippery surfaces. The special tread pattern and rubber compound enable better traction and effective braking on icy and snow-covered road conditions. Additionally, they provide more precise steering response and better control in curves, minimizing the risk of skidding and accidents. Winter tires should be stored in a cool, dry place and protected from direct sunlight. Avoid contact with oils and chemicals, and in the case of self-storage in a fleet, use tire racks or stands to prevent deformations.

The right time for winter tires

From October to Easter – this rule of thumb is well-known, but legally the formula has no relevance. In Germany, according to § 2 paragraph 3a of the Road Traffic Regulationsopen_in_new  , there is a situational winter tire obligation:

The driver of a motor vehicle is only permitted to operate it in case of black ice, snow-covered roads, slush, icy surfaces, or frost-covered roads if all wheels are equipped with tires that, without prejudice to the general requirements for tires, meet the requirements of § 36 (4) of the Road Traffic Licensing Regulations.

This means that in wintry road conditions with ice, slippery surfaces, or slush, only winter tires are allowed. Those caught driving without winter tires face a fine of 60 euros and one point in the Flensburg traffic violation register.

It is advisable to switch to winter tires already at the beginning of October. This way, drivers are prepared for sudden winter weather conditions. Inquire about suitable tires well in advance and schedule appointments for tire changes to ensure that your fleet is winter-ready. Interestingly, during the summer, the demand for winter tires is particularly low, presenting a great opportunity to acquire new tires at a more affordable cost.

Tread depth is one of the most important criteria for winter tyres.
While the legally prescribed minimum tread depth is 1.6 millimeters, new tyres usually have a depth of 9 millimeters.

Consider winter tire criteria when making your selection

So that company car drivers can safely navigate smooth, snowy, or muddy terrain in winter, it’s important to consider various criteria when choosing tires. These include:

Tread depth and sipe density

The depth of the tire tread and the density of the sipes significantly influence traction on snow and wet roads. A deeper tread and higher sipe density provide better traction and effective water and snow dispersal. Legally, both winter and summer tires are required to have a minimum tread depth of 1.6 millimeters. However, ADAC recommends a tread depth of approximately 4 millimeters open_in_new , and many manufacturers strongly advise against going below 2 millimeters. Therefore, pay attention not only to sufficient tread depth when purchasing new tires but also regularly check the tread depth of existing tires. The small grooves on winter tires are sipes open_in_new , designed to channel water and interlock with snow and ice. This enhances traction on the road surface.

Rubber compound

A special rubber compound open_in_new is required to remain flexible even at low temperatures. This allows for optimal grip and traction, while the stiffness of the rubber reduces rolling resistance in warmer conditions. In general, winter tires have a higher proportion of natural rubber to ensure good grip on the road surface even in cold temperatures.

Snowflake symbol

In 2018, the snowflake symbol open_in_new replaced the M+S marking. Until 2024, there is a transitional phase for older tires; thereafter, the Alpine symbol becomes mandatory. Winter tires with the snowflake symbol adhere to higher quality standards and have undergone official testing for their winter characteristics

Tire width and pressure

The dimensions of the tire impact stability and traction. Wider tires often provide more contact area, enhancing traction. The aspect ratio influences handling and ride stability. Additionally, the correct tire pressure affects the grip and performance of winter tires. Regular inspection and adjustment according to manufacturer guidelines are crucial to achieve optimal performance.


When making your choice, prioritize quality and preferably opt for reputable brands. Tires from no-name manufacturers are often made from inferior materials, resulting in poorer grip on the road surface and consequently longer braking distances. For those uncertain about winter tire criteria, seeking advice from a qualified tire dealer is recommended. They possess valuable expertise regarding the appropriate winter tires for specific vehicle types and models, taking into account factors such as driving style, vehicle weight, and climate conditions. Test results in specialized magazines and tire comparison portals also provide independent assessments to make informed decisions for your fleet.

echnological innovations in the field of winter tires

The world of winter tires has expanded through technological innovations that enhance performance and increase safety.
  • Studless tires, such as the Bridgestone Blizzak WS90, provide optimal traction on snow and ice through special rubber compounds and tread design.
  • Studded tires, like the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9, use metal studs for superior grip on icy surfaces. However, studded tires can be louder on dry or wet roads and may damage the road surface.
  • All-season tires: Manufacturers like Michelin are developing innovative tires like the CrossClimate 2, which combines the advantages of summer and winter tires. These all-season options deliver good performance throughout the year and reduce the need for seasonal tire changes.

Trevelling safely?

Train your drivers at least once a year in the safe handling of vehicles according to UVV. The best way to do this is through e-learning.

The most important aspects regarding winter tire criteria at a glance

Winter tires are specifically designed for winter road conditions, offering a shorter braking distance, better grip, and enhanced traction with the road surface.

In Germany, there is a situational winter tire requirement: Whenever icy conditions, slush, and snow dominate the road conditions, it is mandatory to use winter tires.

The criteria for winter tires include, among others, tread depth, rubber compound, tire pressure, and width. Also, pay attention to high-quality tires from reputable manufacturers when making a purchase.

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