DCA to BOS = Snow Tires?
November 20, 2016 2:04 PM   Subscribe

I am moving to Boston at the end of December. I have never lived north of DC before and thus have never had a need for snow tires before. Help a displaced Southerner out.

* I will be living in apartments for the foreseeable future. Where do people store their summer tires when not in use?

* I have a mechanic here in DC whom I know and trust. Should I have him install snow tires before my drive to MA, or should I find a mechanic in Boston who can do it?

* Other tips/tricks re: snow tires or driving in New England? I'm a pretty infrequent driver, and can generally avoid driving in inclement weather, but sometimes it's necessary and I want to be safe.

SPECIAL BONUS QUESTION: Any advice for how an introvert can make friends in a new city? I've lived in DC my entire adult life so this is a big change for me.
posted by schroedingersgirl to Travel & Transportation (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yahoo Answers
posted by JayRwv at 2:16 PM on November 20, 2016

Many tire places will store your tires for you. Or you can store them in the back of the car for added weight and traction.
posted by SyraCarol at 2:19 PM on November 20, 2016

I don't have snow tires and live where it's snowier than Boston. You can get some all weather tires and should be all set then you wont need to swap them.

Driving in the snow is really about going slower. Take it easy and don't worry if someone is driving way faster. It doesn't mean you are doing it wrong. Snow covered roads can be really tricky to read - ice under snow, etc. We are good about cleaning the roads and often will have it back down to pavement in no time.

The thing that will most impact you is cleaning off your car. Give yourself extra time, let the car warm up so it's easy to scrape the windows, and be a good person and clean all the snow off so it doesn't blow off into someone else's path.
posted by ReluctantViking at 2:19 PM on November 20, 2016 [7 favorites]

I concur with the Yahoo Answers people. You do not need snow tires in Boston unless

- you will be traveling to more remote places
- you have an "essential" job and will be required to go to work when the roads are truly terrible or at odd hours when they might not be plowed (3 am?) or when you can't get the T (subway)
- you have a funny sort of car that handles very badly in snow
- you have a driveway you need to plow

Most people I know in Boston either take public transportation when the weather is shitty or have a good car and keep their regular tires in decent shape. Go slowly, be careful on turns, don't let other jerk drivers rattle you, stay home until the roads have been plowed

Tips for making friends: there is a HUGE group of MeFites in the Boston area who have a Slack channel and do trivia nearly weekly. They are good people. Come to a trivia meetup once you are in town (I live in VT but am in Boston pretty often).
posted by jessamyn at 2:21 PM on November 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

Born here, raised here, learned to drive here (where here = the immediate metro area around the city) and I've never put snow tires on my car nor have I ever known anyone to. Agree with ReluctantViking that driving in snow here is mostly about going slower and being careful, attentive, and patient.

If you expect to drive infrequently here I'd recommend against it even more strongly. It's a fair bit of hassle and extra expense for something you're not going to be doing much.
posted by Kosh at 2:22 PM on November 20, 2016

Nthing that you don't need them - I grew up in Boston and never knew people who had them. Unless you'll do lots of rural driving, your best bet for safety is learning how to drive on packed snow (slowly, mostly) and when to avoid driving.
posted by lunasol at 2:34 PM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nthing that you don't need snow tires at all in Boston. But if you feel like you absolutely must get them, the few people I knew in Vermont who bothered (because they had to drive through more unplowed areas) generally kept their summer tires in their trunk to provide additional downforce.
posted by brainmouse at 2:34 PM on November 20, 2016

What kind of car do you drive? I live in Boulder, CO. I've been driving a '97 Subaru Outback with all weather tires for the last six years and I've been really pleased with how sure footed it is on snow.
posted by Bruce H. at 2:42 PM on November 20, 2016

Do you know where you're going to park? That's the hardest thing. They will outlaw street parking sometimes during snowstorms so the plows can get through. Even when they don't, you'll have to dig out a space.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 2:51 PM on November 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Another vote for 'no'. I just get all-season tires and haven't had any problem. And, yeah, figure out what the deal is with parking if you don't have an assigned off-street space (driveway, etc). A couple of years ago when we had massively record-setting snow, there were parking restrictions in force for well-over a month. Street parking in the snowy winters can lead to vandalism and violence as people can get very possessive of parking spots that they've spent a long time shoveling out.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:57 PM on November 20, 2016

The car thing has been covered, and besides I know nothing about cars, but to answer your BONUS QUESTION: As a fellow introvert who ALSO moved to Boston from DC, I'd be happy to meet up with you anytime! Especially if group meetups are not your thing. (I'm sure the Boston area MeFites are all sorts of awesome, though.)
posted by Ender's Friend at 2:59 PM on November 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

If you like SF/F, the meetup at Comicazi in Somerville seemed like really good folks the three or four times I went (I stopped going only because I decided to move back to my prior city).
posted by praemunire at 3:18 PM on November 20, 2016

Any advice for how an introvert can make friends in a new city?

You would be very welcome at our bi-weekly pub trivia outings (currently held in Inman Square). I am as introverted as they come and I can vouch for the MeFites who participate as warm, smart, good-natured, and welcoming. And we're really good at trivia, so you get the glow of participating in a winning team effort most times, which is something introverts don't often get to experience.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 3:28 PM on November 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

Thanks for the answers so far. I drive a Smart car and so preserving safety is really important to me. My car is extremely lightweight which can make getting traction on slippery surfaces a little tricky. (No, I am not open to getting a different make/model at this time.)

If anyone wants to chime in on summer tire storage and my other questions, that would be awesome.

posted by schroedingersgirl at 3:42 PM on November 20, 2016

When it has snowed and it is below freezing, drive slower even if the roads look clear. Black ice is a thing. Also, driving in Boston is an object lesson in aggressiveness. I live in RI, but am in Boston often, and there is a definite difference in my driving style between there and home. If you don't have a GPS, you should invest in one and keep the maps updated. You're going to encounter six way intersections, streets that suddenly turn one way in the wrong direction, and so, so many rotaries (roundabouts). I have a good sense of direction, but Boston driving has been so much easier with a GPS.
posted by Ruki at 4:08 PM on November 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Do you know where you're living yet? Tires can stay outside though it's good if you keep them wrapped up in plastic (your tire place should do this for you) so they don't become mosquito breeding grounds. I assume they don't fit inside your car? They would add useful weight in the winter. And yes, some places store them.

And it's already snowing a bit further north. If you can move the tires up with you I'd make the switch with the mechanic you like before you leave. Otherwise there are a TON of places that are able to do it up here and it's not a very complex job. You can even buy tires online and have them delivered to a local garage. By late December it will likely be snowy up here so some of it depends how comfy you'd feel if you drove into a storm on your way up versus the hassle of bringing tires with you.
posted by jessamyn at 4:30 PM on November 20, 2016

I live in Fairbanks and don't have snow tires (although most people I know do). If you are going to get snow tires, check with locals, but lots of folks around here really really like Blizzaks (in preference to studded tires). Apparently studded tires are legal in Massachusetts from November to April.
posted by leahwrenn at 4:33 PM on November 20, 2016

Studded tires are absolute overkill in Boston, and they are unpleasantly loud and destructive for the roads. Boston is not Alaska! I have never had a problem with all-seasons, but (non-studded) snow tires might be worth it if your car currently has summer tires (many sports/"sporty" cars - yes, even some with AWD) or if you have a rear-wheel-drive car.
posted by Seeking Direction at 5:13 PM on November 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Likewise Boston born and learned to drive there, drive there all the time now including on snowy days on Pirelli all seasons and they are fine. If you don't need to drive on the truly bad days -- generally just a few big storms -- save yourself the hassle and expense.

Boston driving is a unique culture. Harden your heart.
posted by spitbull at 5:54 PM on November 20, 2016

You don't need snow tires, but modern snow tires make winter driving much, much, much safer and more enjoyable. You may want them anyway, but move there and wait until you can test drive a friend's / coworker's car that has snowies. (I've done side-by-side swaps for comparison on three cars and the difference is hard to overstate.) Compare the costs of a second set of tires and steel rims with the costs of a moderate crash -- if you can solve the associated mild hassle of tire swaps, winter tires are absolutely worth it in most cases.
posted by introp at 9:25 PM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Avoid driving on snow tires when it's warm, lest they wear very quickly.
posted by actionstations at 10:22 PM on November 20, 2016

Minnesota-born (and driver licensed!) but living in New England now, and you don't use studded tires here. Snow tires are probably only useful if you live in, like, the wilder parts of New Hampshire or Vermont or Maine, and don't come into the city much.

Just take public transit like everyone else does. When you do have to drive in the snow, slow the hell down! (Mind you, you might want a Mad Max-style gun turret on your car in order to demand the respect that other drivers should afford you by default, but that's part and parcel of the hyper-aggressive, under-signaled, local driving culture.)

We used to keep a blanket & snacks and stuff in the trunk, but now cell coverage is so good that you can probably call for help long before you will need to camp overnight in a broken-down car in the winter. (I still keep that stuff in my truck, though.)

Get a small shovel and put it in the trunk of your car with a ten-pound sack of kitty litter. Plowing in the Boston metroplex can be...spotty...and oftentimes the roads aren't cleared curb-to-curb -- so you can find bad patches of street. In that case, use your shovel to dig out the tires, and then throw kitty little in front of them & behind them for extra traction.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:00 AM on November 21, 2016

I have to say, I am always surprised by the number of people who say, 'you don't need snow tires'. I can only assume they have never tried snow tires. These must be the people sliding past me, backwards, down moderate hills on snowy days.
posted by Ausamor at 7:56 AM on November 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Important: If you're using cat litter in the place of sand, DO NOT USE CLUMPING CAT LITTER. It just makes things more slippery.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:25 AM on November 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I can only assume they have never tried snow tires.

I have snow tires. They are not appropriate in every single winter driving situation. One of the downsides to snow tires for people who are not necessarily experienced drivers is the overconfidence that can come from thinking that snow tires allow you to drive in any kinds of weather. That is not true. Good winter driving involves understanding your vehicle and the road conditions and making choices about when to be on the road and when to simply stay home. Snow tires can be helpful, sure, but they are an ongoing expense and not necessarily a mission-critical part of living in every environment so there is always a risk analysis in deciding if that is where you want to invest your time and money.
posted by jessamyn at 8:55 AM on November 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

...driving in snow here is mostly about going slower and being careful, attentive, and patient.
If you believe that every other driver out there is doing this, then I guess you don't need snow tires. If you believe otherwise, get the snow tires.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 1:01 PM on November 24, 2016

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