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As if there weren’t enough shortages already, rubber is now in short supply. And while this particular shortage isn’t affecting automakers yet, it is affecting their top-tier clients. Major automakers have top priority for receiving new tires. Meanwhile, low-volume customers (such as those buying winter tires) are kept waiting. That’s why you need to buy your winter tires now.

Stacks of rubber tires
Stacks of tires | Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Why is there a shortage of rubber?

The shortage of rubber ties into both Covid-19 and mother nature. When Covid-19 first hit, many automakers hesitated on purchasing new rubber. But their calculations on how many cars people would be buying were dead wrong. And now they’re still scrambling to secure the tires they need.

This is causing tire plants to work overtime, which means purchasing more rubber. Unfortunately, this year’s rubber supply was drastically reduced by flooding and leaf disease. The rubber trees grow in countries like Thailand and Indonesia. But the white sap produced was minimal.

These countries have made efforts to plant more of these rubber trees. But the trees take about seven years to mature again. It doesn’t help that China, the world’s largest user of rubber by far according to Bloomberg, is buying up a lot of the supply.

All that put together means tire companies have to pick and choose which rubber they make. And unfortunately, snow tires aren’t at the top of the list.

Why you should buy your snow tires early

Car using winter tires in the snow
Car using winter tires in the snow | Hauke-Christian Dittrich/picture alliance via Getty Images

For starters, the snow tire shortages can already be seen in car parts stores across the country (in areas where snow is frequent, that is). Stores that ordered their winter tires in October are still waiting on shipments. So if you haven’t already purchased your new winter tires, now is the time to do it.

But if you had ordered them earlier, not only would they have been more readily available, but they would’ve been cheaper. Like Christmas trees, people aren’t buying snow tires in the summer, so the prices go down. Hindsight is 20/20, but next time you need to order snow tires, consider doing so in the warmer months of the year.

In short, slowed shipments due to supply chain issues and tire low-tire production to mitigate the rubber shortage may be delaying your winter tires. But there are alternatives you can consider.

Alternative methods for buying winter tires

BMW With Winter Tires Driving Through Snow
BMW With Winter Tires Driving Through Snow | Getty Images

For starters, you can wrap your tires in chains (if it’s legal), or equip them with snow socks. Snow socks are great because they can be easily removed from your tires, only to be used in snowy conditions. They’re also significantly cheaper than new winter tires.

There is, however, a janky but cheap method for buying both snow tires and rims for your car. You can use Craigslist to purchase winter tires that’ll fit your car, though it does require some DIY knowledge to equip them.

If you look up the bolt pattern for your car’s rims, you can enter that into Craigslist and find winter tires already mounted on rims that’ll fit your car. Sure, you may be driving a Toyota with wheels from a Subaru, but that won’t matter if you have snow tires.

However, you go about it, be sure your car is ready for the snow before you hit the road. Driving in snowy conditions is ill-advised unless you and your car are prepared. So either buy your winter tires now, or look for alternatives.


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