winter tyresSuzuki

Winter tyres have become a popular buy among motorists over the last couple of years, but are you wondering what all the fuss is about?

AOL Cars has put together this guide to help you should you decide to make the switch to winter rubber.

Why fit them?
We'll keep this simple: When the mercury drops below seven degrees celsius, you're much more likely to have an accident.

In fact, according to the British Tyre Manufacturers' Association, a car fitted with winter tyres, braking from 62mph on a cold, wet road, will outbrake a summer tyre by around five metres.

On snow at 30mph the difference is 11 metres, while the same vehicle braking on an icy road at just 20mph would pull-up eight metres shorter – a crucial two car lengths less than a vehicle using summer tyres.

What are they?
They are made of specially formulated compounds that harden less as temperatures fall, and covered in hundreds of grip-inducing "sipes", winter tyres give better performance in cold, wet weather, as well as in snowy and icy conditions.

Where can I buy them?
Well, you can buy winter tyres at your local tyre supplier. If you decide to go this route, expect to pay in the region of £350 plus approximately £50 for fitting. Michelin Alpin A4 and Primacy Alpin PA3 tyres have been named as "Best Buys" by Which? You may need a set of steel or alloys wheels but you can pick up some second-hand ones from a scrap yard cheaply.

Most drivers will want to purchase their tyres from a franchised dealer. Most manufacturers have a winter tyres offer so visit their website or your local dealer for a quote. We've found four offers just by searching the web...

Mini winter tyresMini

Mini - The British brand will sell you a set of winter tyres and steel wheels for £560. That's a full set but doesn't include centre caps though. And if you want alloys, you'll have to stump up upwards of £1,000. A Mini dealer will also store your summer tyres for just £30.

CayennePorsche

Porsche - Concerned your two-wheel-drive Porsche will get a little hairy when the temperatures fall? Don't worry – Porsche will charge you from £1,800 for a set of 'winters' and wheels for a Boxster. Want to make your 4x4 Cayenne invincible in the ice? The German firm will charge £1,600.

SuzukiSuzuki

Suzuki - A Suzuki dealer will charge £99 for a set of winter tyres and steel wheels for a Suzuki Alto. Fancy some extra grip in a Grand Vitara? That'll be £199. They'll also sell you some wheel trims from £33 if you want, and store your summer tyres for £49.99.

Audi A4Audi

Audi - Audi has a vast range of models and they've got a winter tyre to suit every car. They are offering winter wheel and tyre sets from £799 to £3,659. Tyre-only sets are priced from £540 to £1,300. Got an older Audi? A dealer can sell you a set of winter tyres from £325.

Did you know?

Don't buy cheap winter tyres – Like summer tyres, you can buy budget ones – but why risk it? Goodyear Dunlop found that a budget winter tyre will only perform as well as a premium summer tyre. So it's worth investing properly in a decent set.

Winter tyres are not snow tyres – Winter tyres aren't the solution to every type of winter driving. If the weather gets really snowy, snow chains or snow socks are a better bet.

Check your winter tyres – Investing in a good set of winter tyres one year may mean you'll be able to use them in twelve months' time. But check they're safe. The AA says winter tyre tread depth should be 3mm, and no less than 2mm.

Tell your insurance company? The Association of British Insurers published an agreement in 2011 saying car insurance firms would not increase premiums if drivers fitted winter tyres. Therefore, if an insurer says they'll charge you for being safe – they can't. But some firms require you to tell them before you fit your winter tyres. Find out which ones here

More info?
Volkswagen has put together a great FAQ page on its website. Check it out