Should I Buy Used Tires?

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A pile of used tires
A pile of used tires/Image Credit: pixel2013 on Pixabay

As expensive as new tires are, we’ve all been tempted at one time or another to purchase used tires instead. But is that such a good idea? After all, when it comes to safe driving, your tires really are where the rubber meets the road. To figure out this little tire dilemma, let’s take a look at all the pros and cons of tire shopping in the second-hand market.

The Pros of Pre-Owned Tires

It goes without saying that the key advantage of pre-owned tires is the cost savings. Second-hand tires can save you up to 65%. Given that tires are one of the biggest regular maintenance items you have to pay for, such a large discount isn’t to be sniffed at.

How Long Do Tires Last?

But you also need to consider the total cost of tires over the lifetime of your vehicle. A new set of rubber can be expected to last 50,000 to 60,000 miles, depending on your vehicle, driving style, and road conditions. The average car’s lifespan is around 200,000 miles. That means you should expect to need about four tire changes over that period.

If you’re buying heavily used tires, on the other hand, which give you only half the usage time of a new set, then you might have seven or eight tire changes in total. If that’s the case, then are you really saving money in the long term?

Inspect With Care

Of course, not all second-hand tires are heavily used. If you’re buying tires that still have a great deal of their original tread depth, and little or no damage, then you could easily get another 40,000 miles or more out of them. So, all in all, pre-owned tires without too much prior use can certainly save you money.

The Cons of Pre-Owned Tires

Now let’s look at the downsides. Apart from the fact that you won’t have a warranty, the disadvantages of pre-owned tires mostly come down to the question of safety.

There’s no avoiding the fact that you face greater risk with tires that have already undergone some degree of wear and tear. All tires wear down over time, losing tread depth and structural integrity. And the older and more damaged a tire is, the more likely it is to lose traction or blow out on the road.

Another cause for concern is the expiration date. The general rule is to inspect and likely replace tires after about six years. There are things you can do to extend the lifespan of your tires, but the rubber compounds they’re made of will begin to break down eventually due to exposure to the elements and even just temperature changes in storage. For this reason, older tires that look brand new can actually be a major liability.

Diminished Tread Depth

Tread depth is key to avoiding skids. Brand new tires have a tread depth of 10/32 of an inch or more. By law, you shouldn’t be driving on tires with a depth of 2/32 of an inch or under, although it’s advisable to change out your tires long before you reach that point.

If you make sure the tires you’re buying have a tread depth of 8/32 of an inch or more, then they’ve still got plenty of life left in them. Bear in mind that this should be the minimum depth at any point on the treads, not the average.

Another disadvantage of buying used tires is that you’re unlikely to find a matching set with even wear. Ideally, you should always be rotating your tires to ensure that you have the same amount of wear around the vehicle. Your vehicle will behave more predictably under heavy braking and maneuvering when all four tires are effectively the same. There are obvious safety concerns here, but there may also be an impact on fuel efficiency and the wear and tear of other components such as your brakes.

Cuts, Bumps, and Blisters

Out on the road, tires take a beating from curbs, potholes, and dents on poorly maintained road surfaces. If you see any damage in the form of significant cuts, bumps, or blisters in the rubber, don’t buy those tires. Likewise, look out for metallic objects like nails or scraps of wiring dug into the rubber. Any such objects might have reached the under-fabric, causing a small puncture and putting the tire at risk of a blowout.

Cracks and Sidewall Damage

It’s natural for hairline cracks to appear in the voids between treads, but ideally, you shouldn’t see many. The sidewalls of tires can also become damaged by harsh weather and fluctuations in temperature. If you notice significant wear, holes, or cracks in a sidewall, it’s not worth the risk of using that tire.

How to Buy Pre-Owned Tires

You’ll notice that the cons associated with buying pre-owned tires far outnumber the pros. However, if you find yourself undeterred, we recommend that you choose carefully:

  • Buy a full set of tires if possible – if not, two from the same set are better than one.
  • Make sure to check the expiration date on any tire that you purchase (new or used).
  • To further mitigate the risks involved, you can purchase through a middleman marketplace that pressure tests the tires and maintains stringent standards on quality. But even then, nothing’s guaranteed.
  • And lastly, very carefully examine each tire for tire depth and any signs of damage or wear and tear.

There’s nothing wrong with being thrifty but saving a few bucks will never be worth your safety. Used tires cost less at purchase, but the hidden costs can add up. Shop carefully and make sure to follow us on social media for more automotive advice.