The advantages of nice (not the cheapest) Windshield Wipers
- They Last Longer, being made of better materials that resist UV damage in the summer, and endure more physical abuse in the winter.
- They Work Better, with the more pliable materials clearing rain and snow from your windshield more cleanly, frames/beams that fit your windshield better causing less streaks, and some blade materials even add a waxy layer to your windshield causing it to shed water.
I think buying good wipers is worth it. This is your primary tool in harsh conditions to give you the visibility you need to stay on the road safely.
Okay, with that out of the way, let's discuss why that might be true.
The Talking People on The Internet Say
Silicone is the best material for Wipers
Scotty Kilmer says silicone is the way to go for wiper material. He's got some compelling reasons, which he explains in that video linked. Apparently silicone lasts way longer, and also waxes your windshield as they wipe. He also has some conspiracy theories about why stores don't generally carry them, citing the fact that they'd lose a lot of repeat purchases because the wipers would last so long, and they used to be very expensive so people got accostomed to the alternative.
Some people think silicone is not suitable for winter (according to the amazon reviews, and questions here). I'm not convinced. I'll be running that experiment this winter.
PIAA is one of the oft-mentioned known brands of silicone windshield wipers. They claim "all wipers are not created equal", and they have a beam wiper that they say is better for winter ice and snow. They must expect you to be using them in the snow.
Wiper Type and the Winter
Go for the Beam
For the winter months Beam blades are definitely the way to go. Project Farm Demonstrated this effectively in this video. I run them year round, because they're great. But in terms of winter visibility, don't mess around - get the beam blades. If you're going to get cheap wipers, at least get the beam style in the winter. Basically everyone on the internet says this, and so do I. And I'm here on the internet saying it, so it must be true.
Some Experiences, and Experiments
Anecdotally I've noticed that at least for Bosch - within the same brand/stye the more expensive ones last longer. I did a little experiment where I bought one type for driver, the other side for passenger side.
Initial Purchase was January 2016.
- Driver side is Bosch ICON (24", $17).
- Passenger side is Bosch Clear Advantage (20", $10).
I had to replace the Clear Advantage March 2019 (20", $9).
The wipers are still going strong.
Two Cars, two experiences
Here's another story though: This year for our family van, I bought Bosch Clear Advantage for both sides of the windshield. ($9 for 22" and $14 for 26"). They're ready to be replaced already (February 2020). The car generally saw similar weather and storage conditions.
My guess is that I've damaged the wipers by being careless. I know for a fact that there have been several times I scraped that windshield hard, and even managed to do some damage to one of the wiper arms. So let that be lesson. You can destroy wipers by scraping the ice off too carelessly. If that's one of your life's great joys - using things hard, then stick with the $3 wipers. At least in the winter.
As an experiment, I'm trying out the PIAA beam wipers. Hopefully they will last longer! I'm half tempted to do the winter/summer route and just use the silicone beam wipers from March through November.
What is the cost all about?
This might seem obvious, but it needs saying. You will be generally getting a higher quality product if you pay more, especially within the same brand. The picture I get is that cost and durability is all about the blade material, and frame construction.
My theory is that buying cheap blades might save you some money, but you will replace them more often, and they may not work as well even when they're new. The big problem with the cheap-blade strategy, is that you're putting yourself in the situation where your wipers need to be replaced more often, which means you'll be driving with sub-optimal visibility more often as you wear out blades.
Ability to see the road is one of my favorite safety features in vehicles.
In addition to having good wipers, there are a few things you should also do
Use some kind of windshield wax. It makes a HUGE difference. Rain-x is the brand everyone tends to know. You can make the wax even more effective by "Claying" your windshield to pick up dirt and junk out of the glass before applying Rain-x. This is more important than buying quality wipers.
The other thing is that keeping your car in the garage will avoid the frosty/snowy windshield problem, which will extend the life of your wipers regardless of how expensive they are. There are many other benefits to keeping your car in the garage, but this is one of the best ones. Not having to scrape the windshield at all will make your morning commute safer (no frosty windows) and help your cheap wipers last much longer.
I kept my car outside for ten years at my first house, because I had to (one car garage). If you have a two car garage, use it for what it's made for and park there. This is the way.