The ‘winterisation’ charge, which includes the price of winter tyres and/or snow chains, varies widely and is often only payable at the rental desk. Sixt in Turin, for example, charge £68 for ‘winterisation’ and Avis in Geneva charges £53. The average 'winterisation' fee across the six destinations is £40.
The research by iCarhireinsurance.com, a leading provider of stand-alone car hire excess insurance, surveyed the costs of six car hire companies for a week's car hire in winter 2020 in six ski getaway locations, Barcelona, Geneva, Grenoble, Innsbruck, Sofia and Turin.
Winterisation is an optional charge in all destinations except for Turin, where snow chains are a legal requirement. All the rental companies, apart from Sixt, charge extra for snow chains in Turin. Hertz is one of the few companies to include winter equipment in its hire price in all locations, except for Barcelona and Grenoble.
It is the driver's responsibility, not the rental company, to ensure that the hire car is equipped for the wintery conditions they are driving in. This can be difficult when the rules on winter tyres and snow chains differ from country to country.
Winter tyres, for instance, are mandatory in Germany and Austria in wintery conditions and snow chains should also be carried. In fact, in Austria driving without winter tyres between the start of November and mid-April can lead to a fine of around 5,000 Euros as well as the risk of the car being impounded. Expect to pay an average price of £27 for winter tyres and snow chains in Innsbruck.
While winter tyres are only 'recommended' in Switzerland, Andorra, Bulgaria, and Italy, vehicles which are not equipped to travel through snow, and which impede traffic, may be fined. In France, winter tyres are not mandatory but in snowy conditions special signs can indicate that they should be used. Snow chains may also be permitted as an alternative.
Ernesto Suarez, CEO and founder of iCarhireinsurance.com, says:"It’s important that drivers recognise that it’s their responsibility to ensure their hire car is properly equipped for wintery conditions, and not the hire car company. Laws on the use of winter tyres vary from country to country and even from region to region, so drivers should check the local laws and regulations of where they’re travelling to. In the Alps, there are designated ‘snow chain’ areas, and the police can refuse entry and fine drivers of cars which don’t have chains.”
iCarhireinsurance.com has produced a winter driving infographic giving tips on winter driving and details of the rules in different European countries.