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EXPLAINED: What are the rules on winter tyres in Austria?

Amanda Previdelli
Amanda Previdelli - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: What are the rules on winter tyres in Austria?
Drivers are obligated to put properly-marked winter tyres on their vehicles between November 1 and April 15th. Photo: Pixabay / Skitterphoto

Drivers in Austria will be able to swap their summer for winter tyres soon. But what does the law say, and should you have winter tyres in November?


Drivers in Austria are starting to get ready to change their summer tyres for winter ones by mid-November, when the obligation to have summer tyres in certain cases ends. The tyre rules can be confusing, though, especially if you are not used to having different sets for each season.

In Austria, passenger cars and trucks weighing up to 3.5 tons need to have tyres proper for winter driving from November 1st to April 15th in case there are winter road conditions present. So, for example, they need to be fit for driving in winter when there are snowy roads, slush or ice water.

As an alternative to winter tyres, it is also permissible to use snow chains on at least two drive wheels - but only if the road is covered with a continuous or not significantly interrupted layer of snow or ice.

However, there is no winter tyre obligation if there are no particular wintry road conditions - or if the vehicle is parked and not being driven. 

READ ALSO: Five things you need to know about winter tyres

Tread depth

The tread depth requirements for various types of vehicles are also relevant. 

Private cars and goods vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes maximum must have a minimum tread depth of 4 millimetres for radial tyres (most common type) and 5 millimetres for cross-ply tyres, as well as for all-season tyres, all-weather tyres, and spikes. 

For goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, the minimum tread depth must be 6 millimetres for cross-ply tyres and 5 millimetres for radial tyres.

Heavier trucks and buses

The rules are different for larger vehicles. In the case of heavier trucks, they can only be used during the period of November 1st to April 15th if winter tyres are fitted to at least the wheels of one drive axle. 

Buses need winter tyres fitted to at least the wheels of one axle from November 1st to March 15th. In both cases, the obligation always applies, regardless of weather conditions.


What happens if you are caught with the wrong tyres?

Driving in winter road conditions without winter tyres or snow chains incurs a fine of € 35, according to the federal government. If other road users are endangered as a result, fines of up to € 5,000 may be imposed.

Because of the requirement for proper tyres, there is now a "reverse burden of proof" in Austria. This means that if you have an accident between November and April while driving with summer tyres, you will have to prove that the accident would still have happened even if your car had winter tyres or snow chains. 

What is considered winter tyres?


A tyre is only considered to be a winter tyre if it bears the inscription"M+S", "M.S.", or "M&S" or is marked with an additional snowflake symbol or exclusively with a snowflake symbol.

A special tyre is considered a winter tyre only if it bears the inscription "ET", "ML", or "MPT".

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about driving in Austria in winter

Can I use all-season tyres?

Some people prefer to use tyres that can be used during every season, avoiding the costly changes and issues with storing their tyres off-season. 

However, these types of tyres are only acceptable if they have the markings and inscriptions cited above. 


Austria's driving club ÖAMTC says "all-weather" or "all-season" tyres are an option for most motorists. "That depends on the individual situation. There are good all-season tyres, but they are always a compromise compared to summer and winter tyres. But if, for example, you tend to drive in well-cleared, urban areas all year round, this can definitely be an alternative", said ÖAMTC technician Steffan Kerbl. 

He added: "It saves having to change tyres twice a year, paying tyre depot fees or storing them in the basement. On the other hand, all-season tyres last correspondingly fewer seasons."

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about driving on the autobahn in Austria

Do I have to wait to change my tyres?

If you have a car, the obligation to have winter-appropriate tyres in wintery conditions ends on April 15th of every year. However, if the weather is mild, you don't have to wait to change the tyres - they are only mandatory during the winter period and when weather conditions require them.

Conversely, there is also no obligation to use summer tyres after April 15th, especially since driving winter tyres in warm temperatures is "less problematic" than summer tyres in cold weather, ÖAMTC's expert explained. 

"Only at really warmer temperatures do winter tires degrade significantly," Kerbl said. At the same time, the expert highlighted that summer tyres provide a better grip than winter ones once temperatures are consistently above freezing and no longer cold and wet. So, even if your tyres will still "last" over the spring months, it is safer and better to swap them once the weather becomes consistently warmer.


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