Winter tires within Europe

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.

Countries where the winter tires are legally mandatory

Tires which are suitable for the winter season are mandatory between 15th November and 1st 
March
. Consumers can alternatively use winter tires or universal tires or even summer tires. According to the law the tread depth should be not less than 4 mm to be considered suitable for winter season. 

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 April of the 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 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. From December 1, 2022, the Alpine symbol (snowflake) will be mandatory for all-weather tires.

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 Lithuaniawinter tires are mandatory between 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 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. 

These rules also apply to foreign cars traveling through Sweden.

For more information (in English) check out the Swedish Transport Agency website.

In Slovenia, winter tires are mandatory between 15th November and 15th March.

If such tires are mounted, they must be installed on all four wheels. Alternatively, you can use summer tires with snow chains on front wheels.

A minimum tread depth of 3 mm is required.

Countries where the winter tires are mandatory if weather conditions so require

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.

All-season tyres may only be used as winter tires if they bear a marking ("M+S", "M.S." or "M&S") or if the tire is additionally marked with a snowflake symbol or exclusively with a snowflake symbol.

Special tyres are only considered to be a winter tyre if it bears the inscription "ET", "ML" or "MPT".

Vehicles with summer tires must have chains, see below. 

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).

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.

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. 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.

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.

These regulations also apply to cars which have been registered abroad.

The German regulation doesn’t indicate a minimal temperature or a determined period when the vehicles shall be fitted with winter tires. Drivers must adapt the tires to the weather conditions. Winter tires are mandatory in case of black ice, packed snow, slush, glaze and slippery frost.

Winter tires must have at least 1,6 mm tread depth. They have to be installed on all 4 wheels. For motorbikes winter tires are not mandatory.

Winter tires manufactured after 31st December 2017 must carry the alpine symbol (mountain with snowflake). M+S (Mud and Snow) tires manufactured prior to 31st December 2017 are allowed to be used until 30th September 2024. After this date only tires carrying the alpine symbol are allowed.

All-year-round-tires carrying the alpine symbol are considered as winter tires and are allowed to be used. All-year-round-tires carrying the M + S symbol are allowed to be used as winter tires until 30th September 2024 if they have been produced prior to 31st December 2017.

If you are in breach of the law, not only the owner but also the driver will be fined. The fine for the driver is from 60 up to 120 € and 1 point in the German driving ability register FAER, depending on the type of the offence. The fine for the owner is 75 € and 1 point in the registry.

If you do not use appropriate tires: You might encounter problems with your insurance company in case of an accident caused by a third person or by your fault.

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 14th of April).

Studded tires are allowed part of the year.

Snow chains are forbidden in conditions where they can cause damage to roads.

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 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.

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.

Studded tires are allowed, but they must be approved (homologated), on public roads covered with snow, ice or black ice.

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.

Countries where the winter tires are mandatory only if there is a specific road sign

Since November 1st, 2021, new rules for winter gear have applied in France.

In areas determined by two new road signs, winter tyres or equivalent equipment will be mandatory from November 1 to March 31.

Good to know: This rule will apply in certain cities, located in 48 “départements” (l'Ain (01), l'Allier (03), les Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (04), les Hautes-Alpes (05), les Alpes-Maritimes (06), l'Ardèche (07), l'Ariège (09), l'Aude (11), l'Aveyron (12), le Cantal (15), la Corrèze (19), la Côte-d'Or (21), la Creuse (23), le Doubs (25), la Drôme (26), le Gard (30), la Haute-Garonne (31), l'Hérault (34), l'Isère (38), le Jura (39), la Loire (42), la Haute-Loire (43), le Lot (46), la Lozère (48), la Meurthe-et-Moselle (54), la Moselle (57), la Nièvre (58), le Puy-de-Dôme (63), les Pyrénées-Atlantiques (64), les Hautes-Pyrénées (65), les Pyrénées-Orientales (66), le Bas-Rhin (67), le Haut-Rhin (68), le Rhône (69), la Haute-Saône (70), la Saône-et-Loire (71), la Savoie (73), la Haute-Savoie (74), le Tarn (81), le Tarn-et-Garonne (82), le Var (83), le Vaucluse (84), la Haute-Vienne (87), les Vosges (88), l'Yonne (89), le Territoire de Belfort (90), la Corse-du-Sud (2A) et la Haute-Corse (2B)). 

Motorists have to check the websites (in French) of the “préfectures (local administration) before driving in these territories.

Three types of equipment are allowed:

  • Four winter tyres, certified "3PMSF" and/or "M.S"/"M+S"/"M&S" (from 1 November 2024, winter tyres must be certified "3PMSF" AND "M.S"/"M+S"/"M&S")
  • Four "all-season" tyres with "3PMSF" certification
  • Removable anti-skid devices such as chains or socks for at least two driven wheels

Winter equipment are mandatory for light vehicles , commercial vehicles, coaches, motor homes and heavy goods vehicles without trailers.
Trucks with a trailer or semi-trailer must have a pair of chains for the driving wheels even if they are equipped with winter tyres.

All vehicles are affected, including those registered abroad. 

The motorist incurs a fine of 135 euros and the immobilization of his vehicle if the police consider it necessary.

Winter tires are generally not mandatory in Italy. But if there is a specific road sign (decided by a special decree) showing the text: «obbligo 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).

Exceptions:

  • In the Aoasta-Valley winter tires are mandatory from 15th October to 15th April.
  • Winter equipment is compulsory on the Brenner motorway in South Tyrol (A22, section Brenner - Affi) from 15 November to 15 April. This requirement is fulfilled if, for example, you drive with winter tyres. 

Attention:

During the summer months (16 May to 14 October), you may only drive in Italy with winter or all-season tyres if they have a speed index at least equal to that stated in the registration certificate Part I (box 15.1 / 15.2).

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.

Countries where the winter tires are not mandatory

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.

No winter tires mandatory.

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.

No winter tires mandatory.

Winter tyres are not compulsory in Hungary. 

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.

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.

No winter tires mandatory.

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 required by law but it is highly recommended to use winter tires or universal tires during winter period.

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.

No winter tires mandatory. Snow chains are not mandatory excepting when required by a specific traffic signal.

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.