Many motorists feel a bit unfamiliar when driving a hired car, especially in a foreign country. Every vehicle has its own road behaviour, which in the winter can be worsened by such things as wet leaves, rain, frost, snow and ice. Do you plan to go on the road in a hired car this winter? If so, ask your car rental company if you can also hire winter tyres. Winter tyres will give your hired car better grip on the road, better handling and shorter braking distances. Furthermore, they are compulsory in many countries in the winter season.
Regulations vary per country
While the countries of the EU are aiming towards harmonisation of legislation and regulations, there is little sign of this as far as winter tyres are concerned. You might even think that many EU countries are doing their best to make things as complicated as possible for the cross-border motorist. For example, in some countries winter tyres are not compulsory, in other countries they are during the winter season and in yet other countries they are compulsory only under winter conditions or when there are regulatory signs along the roadside. The required minimum tread depth of winter tyres also varies: from 2 mm in one country to 5 mm in another. All-season tyres are classed as winter tyres almost everywhere, except in Sweden and Romania. And the duration of the winter tyre season isn’t also exactly clear. In many countries the winter period starts on 1 November, in others not until two or even four weeks later. And while in Finland the summer tyres go on as early as 28 February, in Norway they wait until 1 May…
The rules in practice
All those different regulations can lead to some strange situations. Imagine: you leave for the south of Europe on 4 April, for example driving from Amsterdam to Rome. Winter tyres are not compulsory at that time in the Netherlands and can even be prohibited in Belgium under certain conditions. So should you, or shouldn’t you fit winter tyres? Perhaps you should, because in France there may be traffic signs stating that winter tyres are required. And in Italy – well, in Italy the rules vary from one region to another and sometimes even from one road to another! So is this better organised in Northern Europe? Not really. If, for example, you are driving your car and trailer from Amsterdam to Vilnius, you are faced with a puzzle: no winter tyres required in the Netherlands, required under winter conditions in Germany, not required in Poland, required in Lithuania, including on your trailer.
Let’s be fair: trips like that are not usual. The summary below, indicating where and when you need or don’t need winter tyres, will help you on your way:
- Not compulsory: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Macedonia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Turkey.
- Compulsory in seasonal winter conditions: Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway, Serbia, Slovakia and Sweden.
- Compulsory throughout the winter season: Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovenia.
- Required by regulatory road signs: France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.
Winter tyres: to hire or not to hire?
Many car rental companies will let you hire winter tyres for a reasonable supplement. But whether they are necessary depends partly on your destination. If you are unsure of the regulations in the country you are heading to, contact us without obligation at BB&L Car Rental.