Your tires have served you well. You’ve seen a lot of miles together! Lately though, you’ve had that nagging feeling that they aren’t safe enough to carry you for many more.
It’s time to replace them.
But money doesn’t grow on trees. So do you have to buy brand new tires . . . or should you save some money and buy used ones instead? Are used tires safe to drive on?
New or Used Tires?
The benefits of buying new tires are obvious. You know they’re in pristine condition. They’re safe to drive on. They’ll give you renewed peace of mind. And they usually come with a warranty. The trouble, of course, is that a set of new tires can be incredibly expensive.
However, used tires are . . . well, they’re used. Which means they may come with defects, tread wear, or patches and plugs from previous punctures. And this kind of damage isn’t always easy to spot. Many people have purchased used tires and enjoyed a safe, inexpensive ride for a few thousand miles. In fact, almost 30 million used tires are sold each year. It’s definitely possible to buy good, used tires. But you absolutely need to know how to properly assess them for safety.
How Tired is THIS Tire?
The question isn’t so much “Are used tires safe?” as it is “IS THIS PARTICULAR USED TIRE SAFE?” There are a few basic tests you can do to make sure the tire you’re actually purchasing still has some good mileage left on it.
One thing you should always test is the tread depth. This can be easily done with a penny. Insert the coin into one of the tire’s grooves. (Make sure to insert the penny with Lincoln’s head facing down into the tread). If you can still see the top of Lincoln’s head above the tread, then the tire is too worn down to be safely driven on.
Another important step is to look at the tires DOT, which is like its “born on” date. Rubber can break down with age, so never buy a tire that is six years old or older.
Exposed cords are another big indicator that used tires are unsafe. If you can see the braided steel cords of the tire (even if it’s just a few poking out), pass on it immediately. The tire is absolutely not safe to drive on.
Also, visually inspect the sidewall from various angles. Look for bumps, waves, or bulges of any kind. These deformities can sometimes indicate that the tire’s rubber surface has begun to delaminate from the steel belts inside. If you see this, assume the worst. It’s an incredibly unsafe risk to take.
In conclusion, SAFETY should be the first consideration. New tires have that covered. If you’re purchasing used tires from a trusted vendor, the tires are in good shape with decent tread depth, and there are no obvious defects, you should be fine with used as well.