October 29, 2019 by Greg Meckbach
More than half a million Manitoba motorists are taking advantage of a winter tire financing program, but the jury is still out on whether the program has reduced accident frequency or severity.
There are about 580,000 registered passenger vehicles in Manitoba, said Brian Smiley, a spokesperson for Manitoba Public Insurance. MPI has processed about 130,000 loans for winter tires under an incentive program, Smiley told Canadian Underwriter.
Now in its fifth year, the incentive program allows motorists to get low-interest loans (prime plus 2%) of up to $2,000 towards buying winter tires as well as towards some of the associated costs.
But MPI is not at the point yet when it can keep statistics on how effective winter tires are in reducing accident frequency or severity. “Studies suggest that until there’s an 80% or higher usage rate, accurate analysis is not possible,” said Smiley.
Different provinces take different approaches to winter tires. For example, winter tires are mandatory from Dec. 15 through March 15 in Quebec, while Ontario insurance regulations have required carriers to give discounts for winter tires since 2016. The exact discount and criteria vary among insurers in Ontario.
So can one conclude that if everyone had winter tires, claims costs would be a certain amount lower than if no one had winter tires?
“Such projections are difficult to calculate,” said Smiley. “While winter tires have their safety merits, the onus of road safety ultimately rests with the driver of the vehicle. For example, an impaired/texting driver can still get into a crash despite the fact that the vehicle is equipped with winter tires.”
In Manitoba, motorists can get low-interest loans if they are private passenger (not commercial) customers of MPI and are buying the tires for vehicles with gross weight of under 4,541 kg. They also must have no financing restrictions or outstanding payments on their MPI accounts.
The tires must have the Transport Canada snowflake symbol, so mud and snow (all-season) tires do not qualify. Transport Canada says tires marked “M + S” continue to provide safe all-weather performance but may not always be suitable for severe snow conditions.
MPI customers can pay for their tires by making monthly, pre-authorized payments to MPI through their bank accounts.
Tire and Rubber Association of Canada has a series of videos that compare the difference between proper winter tires and summer tires.
The MPI program does not let clients borrow money to repair tires. It also does not provide loans to maintain and store tires, unless that is included as part of the initial cost. It also does not provide loans for the cost of switching tires, unless included as part of the initial cost.
It does provide loans for the cost of several associated items – among them rims, addition of studs to tires (some limitations apply), mounting and balancing, wheel alignment, nitrogen fill, valve stems, shop supplies and applicable taxes and fees.