Whether you are crossing the border on a daily basis or planning a trip to Europe in the winter, it's not always easy to know what tire equipment to have. Here is an overview of whether or not you need to equip your car with winter tires across Europe.
30 European Consumer Centres answered the following questions:
- Are winter tires mandatory or not?
- If not, are there special areas (or caution signs on the road) where you need winter tires (e.g. in the Austrian mountains)?
- Are studded tires allowed?
- Are snow chains allowed ?
If so required by weather or road surface conditions, winter tires must be used in Finland from 1 November to 31 March.
The tread depth has to be at least 3 mm for vehicles under 3.5 tonnes.
Studded tires can be used from 1 November to 31 March and also during other periods if so required by weather or road surface conditions.
Winter tires can be non-studded or studded.
In slushy or snowy conditions or in conditions that are difficult for other reasons, the tread depth of winter tyres should be at least 5 mm.
These regulations also apply to cars which have been registered abroad.
In Sweden, winter tires or equal equipment are mandatory between 1st December and 31st March. The tread depth must be at least 3 mm.
Studded tires are allowed between 1st October and 15th April or if winter road conditions apply or are expected.
Any trailer attached to a vehicle needs to follow the rules regarding winter tires. If the vehicle has studded tires then so must the trailer. If the vehicle uses friction tires it’s o. k. to use friction tires or studded tires.
Les véhicules de plus de 3,5 tonnes doivent être équipés de pneus hiver ou de matériel équivalent, sur les roues motrices du véhicule, entre le 1er et 31 décembre. La profondeur des pneus doit être au moins de 5mm. Cette exigence ne s'applique pas aux remorques.
Vehicles of more than 3.5 tonnes are to have winter tires or equivalent equipment on the vehicle’s driven wheels when there are wintry conditions on the roads during the period from 1st December to 31st w. The tread depth must be at least 5 mm. This requirement does not apply to attached trailers.
These rules also apply to foreign cars traveling through Sweden.
For more information (in English) check out the Swedish Transport Agency website.
Winter tires are mandatory in Estonia from 1st December to 1st March.
With exceptional road- and weather conditions it is allowed to use studded tires from 15th October to 31st March.
All-season tires are allowed to use all year around.
In Latvia, winter tires are mandatory between 1st December and 1st March for all cars and buses. Consumers can use winter tires or universal tires or summer tires.
The tread depth should not be less than 4 mm.
Vehicles under 3.5 tonnes must be fitted with 4 identical tires and those over 3.5 tonnes must be fitted with identical front tires.
Studded tires are allowed between 1st October and 1st May.
In Lithuania, winter tires are mandatory betwenn 10th November and 1st April. You can use winter tires or universal tires.
The tread depth should be not less than 3 mm.
From 1st December to 1st March winter tires are mandatory also for motorbikes.
Studded tires are not allowed from 10th April to 1st November.
In Bulgaria, winter tires are mandatory between 15th November and 1st March. You can alternatively use winter tires or universal tires or even summer tires. The tread depth should be not less than 4 mm.
Studded tires are not allowed.
The use of snow chains is permitted only if the weather conditions require so.
This regulation applies also to vehicles with foreign registration plates. In the case of non-compliance with the mandatory rules, drivers will be fined to the amount of 50 leva (approx. 25 €)
In Croatia, winter tires and additional winter equipment are mandatory between 15th November of the current year and 15th Aprilofthe following year for all types of motor vehicles.
Vehicles with a maximum mass up to 3.5 t must contain 4 winter tires (or M + S) or 4 summer tires with a minimum tread depth of 4 mm and snow chains in car trunk.
Winter tires are not strictly mandatory in Iceland for any period. However there is a general clause in Icelandic law that driver is responsible for driving on tires that are appropriate and fit the circumstances.
Tires must have at least 3 mm thread depth over the winter period (1st of November to 14thof April).
Studded tires are allowed part of the year.
Snow chains are forbidden in conditions where they can cause damage to roads.
In Norway, it is not as such obligatory to drive with winter tires. But you must always adapt the type of tires to the weather conditions. One can therefore consider that it is in fact (more or less) mandatory to drive with winter tires during the winter season in Norway.
For heavy vehicles (more than 3,500 kg) winter tires are mandatory in the period from 15th November to 31st March.
From 1st November (or 15th October in the north of Norway), drivers are allowed to drive with studded tires. And this is highly recommended. Studded tires are allowed until the first sunday after Easter sunday. In the north of Norway they are allowed by 1st of May. In the municipal Oslo, Trondheim and Bergen, all drivers with studded tires must pay environmental fees within the municipal boundaries.
As of 1st October 2012 winter tires for cars are mandatory in winter conditions (black ice, packed snow, slush, ice sheets or frost). With the exception of parked vehicles on public roads, these rules apply to all drivers.
In Germany, winter tires are mandatory in case of black ice, packed snow, slush, glaze and slippery frost.
The European Consumer Centre Germany informs you about the obligation to use winter tyres and the fines you may incur in the event of a check.
In Czech Republic, winter tires are mandatory with regard to weather conditions.
From 1st November to 31st March, vehicles must be fitted with winter tires if there is a consistent layer of snow, ice or icing on the road or if with regard to weather conditions it can be assumed that such layer can occur on the road while driving.
The tread depth to be considered as a winter tire is min. 4 mm; for vehicles weighing more than 3,500 kg the tread depth is 6 mm.
Studded tires are not allowed.
In Austria from 1st November to 15th April, vehicles must be fitted with winter tires if weather conditions so require. These tires must be fitted on all wheels when roads are covered in snow or ice. The tires must have a minimum tread depth of 4 mm for radial tires (most common tires) and a minimum tread depth of 5 mm for cross-ply tires.
Vehicles with summer tires must have chains, see below. All-season tires may therefore only be used as winter tires if they show a snowflake marking.
Good to know: It is the driver’s legal responsibility to carry the required winter equipment; therefore, it is essential to check that it is included in any hire car. This regulation applies to vehicles registered in Austria as well as those registered abroad.
Studded tires may be used only from 1st October to 31st May, though special local regulations may extend this period. They must be fitted on all wheels, as well as the trailer. Vehicles fitted with studded tires are subject to special speed limits (80 km/h outside built-up areas, 100 km/h on motorways), and must display at the rear the approved «studded tires» sign. This sign is available from the automobile clubs, petrol stations, etc.
The use of snow chains instead of winter tires is permitted if the road is continually or almost always under snow or ice. In extreme conditions the authorities can require cars to be fitted with snow chains on the driving wheels. The maximum speed recommended is 40 km/h.
You can find more information on the austrian government website (in english).
If weather conditions so require, when roads are covered with a coherent layer of snow, ice or frost, winter tires are mandatory for vehicles (m < 3.5 tons).
Winter tires are legally mandatory for trucks (m ≥ 3.5 tons) and busses from 15th November to 31st March and if weather conditions so require.
In Romania winter tires are mandatory on roads covered with snow, ice or black ice. These tires must be fitted on all wheels. The tires must bear the mark M+S or M&S. Winter tires must have at least 1.6 mm tread depth on minimum two thirds of the tread width.
Studded tires are allowed, but they must be approved (homologated), on public roads covered with snow, ice or black ice.
Generally, winter tires are not mandatory in Spain. Winter tires or snow chains are mandatory only in case of a specific public authority order or a specific road sign (in the mountains areas).
Studded tires are allowed. It is considered as winter tires.
Winter tires are not mandatory in general, unless a specific sign says so.
Snow chains are allowed from November 11 to the last Sunday of March. Snow chains are only mandatory if there is a special sign. If winter tires are allowed, too, you will find under the sign an additional text: «pneus neige admis» or «pneus hiver admis» («snow tires admitted»). Since the signs can be installed at short term, depending on the weather conditions, it should be helpful to ask the Préfectures prior to travelling whether winter tires or snow chains are mandatory.
Winter tires are generally not mandatory in Italy. But if there is a specific road sign (decided by a special decree) showing the text: «obligo di pneumatici invernali o catene a bordo», the vehicle has to be equipped with snow chains or winter tires during the period shown on the road sign (usually from 15th November to 15th April).
Exception: In the Aoasta-Valley winter tires are mandatory from 15th October to 15th April. Further information here.
No winter tires mandatory. Snow chains are not mandatory excepting when required by a specific traffic signal.
Winter tires are not mandatory in Ireland.
Studded tires are not illegal. However, studded tires should only be used in Ireland on compacted snow or ice.
In the United Kingdom winter tires are not mandatory, but recommended during the winter period, below 7°C.
Snow chains, studded tyres and snow socks are only permitted on snowy or icy roads.
In Belgium, winter tires are not mandatory. However, under wintry conditions they are recommended. A minimum profile depth of 4 mm is recommended.
The use of snow chains is only allowed if the road surface is not damaged. The road must therefore be covered with snow or ice.
In the Netherlands winter tires are not mandatory. The use of studded tires and snow chains is not allowed, because it damages the pavement.
Winter tires are not mandatory. However, it is recommended to be equipped with winter tires during the winter period.
The tread depth has to be at least 3 mm.
Studded tires are allowed from 1st November to 15th April. If such tires are mounted, they must be installed on all four wheels.
Winter tires are not required by law but it is highly recommended to use winter tires or universal tires during winter period.
Good to know: It is worth mentioning that a failure to change to winter tires may sometimes be classified by the insurer as a gross negligence and make it difficult to receive compensation in case of accident.
Snow chains are allowed on snowy or icy roads. They may be mandatory in some areas if a traffic sign requires it.
Studded tires are strictly forbidden.
In certain areas (highlighted with signs) the use of snow chains can be mandatory at least on the drive axle.
The use of studded tires on public roads is prohibited.
In some European countries winter tires are mandatory for cars. In others they are not mandatory or only under special conditions.Therefore, it should be helpful, before going on holidays, to have a closer look at the corresponding regulations.