What Does Winterisation Mean?
Winterisation is the process where a car hire company makes its vehicles safe to drive during winter months. This is achieved by adding winter tyres to vehicles in Europe and North America. Winter tyres are those displaying M+S – Mud and Snow – on the tyre wall. Snow chains may also be available to hire if relevant. Winterisation occurs from the beginning of November to the end of March. In Europe there are legal requirements to have cars equipped with winter tyres and carrying snow chains in any country regularly affected by severe winter weather. In North America car hire companies ensure that cars in areas prone to severe weather have winter tyres. Snow chains are not available to hire in the USA or Canada. This can be problematic for tourists wishing to visit certain areas. See here: Snow Chains and Rental Cars in Yosemite Park
What is the Winterisation Fee?
In Europe many car hire companies charge an additional fee to winterise their vehicles. This is a contentious issue because of the legal requirement, but it is a current reality. You can expect to pay 16 – 20 Euros per day for winter tyres, and probably the same again for snow chains. There may also be a weekly or per rental maximum that can be charged. However, an increasing number of car hire companies now include winter tyres within the displayed rate. Furthermore, some will even provide snow chains and ice scrapers! When booking a hire car in Europe during the winter months it pays to carefully check the terms and conditions for both charges and any inclusions.
What about Four Wheel Drive?
Not all Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV’s) are four wheel drive. In the USA a vehicle from the SUV category may or may not be a four wheel drive. The hire companies will not guarantee one or the other. You can only request a four wheel drive vehicle on arrival and if it is not available you will have no recourse. In Europe, four wheel drive vehicles are available in most snowy areas and will be clearly marked as such.