Some insurers are treating snow socks and winter tyres as modifications rather than safety improvements – and hiking premiums by up to 20% when motorists call in to say they have had them fitted.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) added up the cost of claims due to accidents in the snow and ice last year came to £395 million for drivers, but has so far not commented on firms charging drivers more for upgrading cars to cope with the poor weather.
Snow socks top of many Christmas shopping lists for drivers at about £50-£60 a set for most standard family cars.
They fit snugly fit most wheel sizes and maker’s claim they give conventional tyres more grip on snow.
Winter tyres are also for sale – but car insurance firms are also accused of misunderstanding their use by charging extra premiums for motorists who fit them as a sensible safety measure.
Winter tyres are not studded snow tyres, but special tyres with more rubber and chemical compounds.
Research shows these tyres perform better than ordinary tyres when temperatures drop below 7 Celsius – at this temperature, standard tyres harden and start to lose grip.
Snow socks are strong, textile covers that go over the driving wheels, so only a pair is needed for a vehicle, unless it has four-wheel drive.
Makers warn they are not suitable for driving on tarmac road surfaces as they will rip and are no use at speeds of 50 mph or more, so suggest they are only fitted for vital journeys.
Vauxhall snow socks meet German MoT approved standards.
Winter tyres make up 10% of the market in the Netherlands and 50% in Germany, but only 3%in the UK, despite similar winter conditions across the countries.
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