Snow Tires: Extra Set of Wheels or Annual Remount?

Ground view of a jeep tyre on a snow-covered road
Massimo Calmonte (www.massimocalmonte.it) / Getty Images

If you're running snow tires during the cold weather months, you have two options when it comes time to swap your summer tires for winter tires. You can either buy the snow tires appropriate for your region's winter conditions and mount those on your existing wheels, or you can buy a whole new set of tires and wheels. There are pluses and minuses to both methods, and which you choose depends largely on personal preference, space, and budget.

 

An Extra Set of Wheels: Pros

Many people who live in wintry regions of the country buy an extra set of steel wheels for their car and have snow tires permanently mounted on these wheels. If you choose this option, it means that twice a year you'll jack up your car or truck and swap out the entire wheel and tire assembly, one assembly at a time. The main benefit of doing this is cost and convenience. It doesn't cost anything to swap them out yourself, and you won't have to spend an hour or more in the tire shop waiting room while a technician swaps out your tires.

An Extra Set of Wheels: Cons

The downside to buying four whole wheel/tire assemblies is the initial cost. Additionally, if you're not mechanically inclined and/or don't want to jack up your car and mount them yourself, you'll need to find a way to transport all four assemblies to a tire shop, then pay for a service person to mount them.

You'll also need enough space in a garage or shed to store the wheel/tire assemblies during the summer months. Finally, some people argue that since you only get a few seasons out of snow tires anyway, the cost of buying a whole new assembly every couple years or even every year will quickly add up.

 

Just the Tires: Pros

The second method is the semi-annual swap of tires only. The only thing you need to buy in this case are the snow tires themselves. You'll then have these mounted and balanced on your car's existing wheels come winter, and then remounted and balanced with your summer tires at the end of the snowy season. 

Just the Tires: Cons

While you don't have to buy the extra set of steel wheels for snow tire mounting with this method, you might pay more in labor for bi-annual mounting and balancing—anywhere from $50 to $100 each time. Additionally, unless you plan to buy a new set of snow tires every season, you'll still need to transport your tires back and forth to the shop, and have enough space in your garage or shed to store them.

The All-Season Option

All-season tires eliminate the need for either method, but in those parts of the country that see significant snowfall and icy conditions, all-season tires might be a poor compromise. It never hurts to ask your neighbors what they do or to check with your local auto parts store for their recommendation.​