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Why You Should Never Buy Used Tires for Your Car?

You might ask "Who buys used tires?" when you see our title. Yet, the used tire market is actually a big one. Sometimes we do not have other options. Maybe we need to budget and one tire pops, or we don't want to change the entire tire set just because of one tire failure (but we want to match the tread depth.

Buying used tires online is both cheaper and easier. Yet, there are certain issues with used tires you need to account for. You can find a used tire guide online, but is it OK to buy used tires? Let's discuss it further.

Is It Safe to Buy Used Tires?

There is no straightforward answer to "Are used tires safe?" Some are, but some of them are truly unsafe tires. Here's the issue, tire sellers can inspect tires for visible issues, but structural issues are harder to notice.

The cost of used tires is appealing. They generally have about 40-70% of their tread lives left, which provides still plenty of mileage. Additionally, used tire retailers have to follow the law as they are not allowed to sell tires that do not meet the minimum safety requirements.

This means, should you buy used tires, they need to have even wear, no tread or sidewall damage, sufficient tread depth, and no dry rot. Ideally, used car tires are vibration-tested as well. But, the chance of finding a "bad batch" is always high when it comes to used products.

Lots of used and new tires

Understanding Used Tire Regulations

Used tire buyers can rest easier in some states, but not all. For example, California passed a law in 2019 prohibiting unsafe used tires from being used on vehicles. But, why is this important?

Worn-out tires' dangers can be fatal. Used treads lack the details necessary to provide traction, which can lead to diminished performance, handling, and safety. Without specific characteristics even slightly used tires can become dangerous.

It is crucial to regulate the sale of used tires for this exact reason. Looking for good used tires might seem like a good alternative, but if you run into untrustworthy professionals selling subpar used tires, you might be putting your life at risk.

Sadly, not all states regulate what tires can be mounted on a car. Therefore, being vigilant and knowing which tires are worth their weight in gold is an important skill.

What to Look for When Buying Used Tires?

Buying a used tire set can be tricky. The difference between searching for used tires and new tires is that you need to know what a safe tire looks like. When talking about how to check if tires are good we mean tread and structural integrity.

Unfortunately, some issues cannot be seen with the naked eye, there are still a few things to keep in mind. Second-hand tires need to be inspected for tread and structural issues. Worn-out tires, even if they are from premium tire brands, are easy to spot and should not be mounted on your vehicle.

The problem is that even lightly used tires can have structural damage that is not easy to notice. Structural problems of a used car tire can be visible if the tire is misshapen or if it cannot be balanced correctly. If possible have the tire tested before purchasing it.

How Much Tread Is Good on a Used Tire?

Most states require at least 2/32" of the tread to be left on a tire for it to be road-worthy. However, this absolute minimum does not mean these tires are safe. If you need used tires the more tread they have the better, unless you own an all-wheel-drive where you need to match the other three tires.

If you are leasing a vehicle, most leasing agencies will require 4/32" of tread depth on all four tires. So, if they want you to change tires with that much tread left, do you think that is safe to use?

But, how to check used tires' tread, and how to check if tires need replacing?

There are multiple ways to check the tread depth, which is measured in 32nds of an inch. New tires typically come with 10/32", but there are exceptions. The tread depth of a second-hand tire can be checked using a penny or a tread depth gauge. In fact, at Priority Tire we try to make understanding tread depth simple with our neat tread depth guide.

Loss of Tire Hydroplaning Prevention

If preowned tires do not have adequate tread left on them, they will not provide safe wet-weather traction. Low tread depth diminishes the grooves the tread pattern sports, reducing the footprint's ability to channel water and slush away.

In other words, they are unable to prevent water from cutting off the tire's road contact. This leads to the vehicle skidding as the driver loses control of it. Therefore, cheap used tire sets should only be considered if they have enough tread left, as hydroplaning is one of the most common reasons for traffic fatalities.

Weak Traction During the Winter

Let's look at another scenario: winter tires. Most experts want 4/32" snow tires off vehicles, as they do not offer the necessary winter traction for safe driving. Ideally, drivers will not mount tires with 5-6/32" of tread left on their tires either. But, are used tires worth it in the winter?

Tires need sipes and grooves to provide winter grip. However, cheap used car tires will not feature those tread details anymore, as they wear away with the tread. Due to this, snow- and ice-covered roads will create a challenge for pre-owned tires. On the other hand, deep grooves are needed to thread through snow, with is also not possible with cheap used tires.

How to Tell if Tires Are Bad?

If used automotive tires are bad, usually, you will be able to notice it at first glance. By this we mean take a good look at its tread and sidewall area. Uneven wear and dry rot are the leading causes why buying used tires for cheap is a bad idea.

What Does Tire Separation Look Like?

Tire separation or tire delamination happens when the tread area detaches from the casing. This can happen from heat build-up, overloading, driving while the tires are under- or over-inflated, etc.

An extreme case of tire separation

A delaminated tire can appear in different forms. The first signs of tire separation are tire bubbles, which can happen to even like-new tires. Cheap good used tires should not have tire bubbles on their sidewalls.

Tires with this issue should not be used anymore. However, if they are not noticed and the tire is driven on, tire separation can lead to a blow-up. When this happens, air pressure suddenly leaves the tire through the hole created where the separation occurred, deflating it immediately. Often these tires literally explode while in use.

Understanding Tire Wear

Different types of uneven or irregular wear that may form on a tire. There are different reasons why this phenomenon appears. Of course, when noticed on time, they can be corrected.

Yet, if you buy barely-used tires, this might be the reason why they were discarded by their previous owner. So, better be careful and check out Priority Tire's tire wear patterns guide for more information.

How Long Do Used Tires Last?

Not all tires are created equal. Low-cost used tires, even if they have lots of treads left on them, might need to be replaced sooner than their premium brand counterparts. Purchasing gently used tires is not enough.

New & used tires are similar in that regard. You get what you pay for. Therefore, there is no clear answer to how long a used tire set will last. It all depends on the tire's brand, model, type, applications, and regular maintenance.

New vs Used Tires

Is the new tires vs used tires debate as simple as good tires vs bad tires?

Certainly, there are scenarios when buying a used tire (set) that make more sense than splurging on new tires. However, the reverse is also true. Following the rules of what to know when buying tires, you need to decide if new or used tires are the best fit for you.

Used Tire Pros and Cons

You might ask yourself "Should I buy used tires?". Used tires cost is definitely a huge plus, but there are risks involved as well. Like all things, used tires also come with their positive and negative aspects.

When to buy used tires? Of course, sometimes there is no way around it, and getting good used tires for cheap is our only or most logical option.

The Pros of Used Tires

But, let's start with the pros of used tires first. Well, there are two: cost and eco-friendliness.

What are used tires worth? The cost of a used tire is lower compared to new tires, as it should be. This is one of the main reasons why many car owners look for used tires when the time comes. Whether your budget is limited or you need to return a leased vehicle, a set of used cheap tires can be a better solution.

Recycling tires helps the environment. Landfills are overflowing with discarded tires, so buying a used set will help lower their carbon footprint. However, repurposing old tires for DIY projects around the house is also a good idea. The growing recycled rubber market allows such materials to be used on a larger scale, enhancing asphalt or creating new running tracks.

The Cons of Used Tires

Sadly, even good used tires have issues. When it comes to used vs new tires, new tires are more reliable.

The problem is that we do not know where the used tires we will buy come from. They have a history that is hidden from us. Therefore, we do not know what they went through, what were the driving habits of their previous owners, did they suffer internal structural damage, etc. Without knowing these things, the risk of buying used tires is greatly inflated.

On the other hand, used tires do not have all of their entire tread details. As we have mentioned before, sipes, grooves, and other tread elements are responsible for generating traction. These disappear with treadwear, reducing the tires' driving safety.

While it is true that you save money when buying used tires, the costs will quickly catch up with you. How much are used tires worth really? Their prices are lower, but their lifecycles are often nearing the end. This means that drivers will need to buy a new (used) set sooner, as opposed to the 4-5 year lifespan of new tires. They offer short-term savings at the cost of your long-term peace of mind.

Also, keep in mind that used tires do not come with any warranties.

Should You Buy a Used Tire for Spare?

We would not recommend buying a used tire for a spare and let us explain why.

If you own a full-sized spare tire, you might want to consider including it in your vehicle's tire rotations. Owning a used spare tire might cause issues with your other four tires or the vehicle's performance.

The other issue is that you do not know the tire's history and it might fail when you need it the most. As spare tires are not used often, drivers tend to forget about them when inspecting their tires. This can lead to a costly and possibly dangerous situation when one of the original four tires fails.

The Benefits of New Tires

We all want safe tires on our vehicles. That often means spending a bit more on a new tire set instead of buying a used set. When it comes to the difference between used and new tires, we would suggest new tires every time.

New tire mounted on a car

But, what do new tires offer that used ones don't?

These are the benefits of new tires:

  • Driving safety - New tires offer better traction, performance, and handling, making them safer in various weather and road conditions.
  • Longevity - The tread of new tires will last much longer and manufacturers often offer mileage warranties as well.
  • Availability - You will always be able to find the tire size you need on the replacement tire market.
  • History - The unknown factor is eliminated when buying new tires, you know what you are getting and their footprint will be even too.

The only issue with new tires is their price. However, thanks to the availability of the market, you will be able to find good cheap tires, which won't break the bank, easily.

When to Get New Tires?

Certain signs will tell you when to buy new tires. The answer to "What to know about buying tires?" does not have to be complicated.

So, when should you buy new tires?

Before deciding to buy used or new tires, you will have to check your current tires. Why replace something if it is still good? The issue comes if you do not know what the signs of a failing tire are.

Here's a quick rundown: tread depth being too low, tire age, vibrations when driving, tire bubbles and bulges, uneven treadwear, etc.

How to check how old tires are? Simply take a look at its DOT number. But, more on that in our when to replace tires blog.

How to Check if My Tires Are Still Good?

Even if a tire seems to be fine that might not be the case. Some issues are not visible at first glance. For this reason, regular tire maintenance is crucial.

How to check if your tires are good?

A closeup of a tire tread

Start by visually inspecting the tires. Check its tread depth, air pressure levels (and if the tire is leaking air or not), and its sidewalls for signs of dry rot or bulges. Some issues are reversible, but in more serious cases you will need to replace the tires.

Even if you do not own a tread gauge, tire wear bars are a good indicator of the tread life left on the tires.

Are Cheap Tires Worth It?

Usually, what you pay for is what you get. However, that does not mean that cheap tires need to be completely disregarded. There are some tire brands and models that are good alternatives to premium tire products.

Due to the market demand, cheaper tire brands have started selling their tires in the United States. Cheap tires offer good traction, performance, and handling, allowing drivers to be safe even on new tires, without sacrificing driving safety. Road hazards or irregular wear can easily shorten a tire's service life, but there are a few things we can do to prepare for such problems.

If you are looking for tips on buying tires, you have come to the right place. Not only do you need to know what to look for when buying tires, but timing is also important. The best time to buy new tires is in specific months when tires are cheaper, so planning for those sales is advisable.

Why Do Tires Cost So Much?

Yes, unfortunately, a new tire set can be expensive, especially if you own larger vehicles. There are countless guides on how to save money on tires, but are they really that great?

Of course, spending $600 on average for four decent tires is not ideal for most households. This is even more true as often the need for tire replacements is an unexpected one. Still, there are good reasons behind why tires are so expensive, which are related to tread life, tire size, the manufacturing process, etc.

Where to Buy High-Quality New Tires for Less?

Cheap good tires are not that hard to come by if you know where to look. So, why take the risk with used tires?

At Priority Tire you can find the perfect tire sale for your vehicles. Our always cheap tires, plus our promotions, will allow you to save a bit on a new tire set, no matter what you are looking for. Check our deals for passenger car, SUV, light truck, and even specialty tires like trailer, industrial, tractor, and commercial tires at your convenience.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Can You Drive on Bald Tires?


You should not drive on bald tires at all! They run the risk of a blow-out even at slower highway speeds, which can easily lead to often fatal accidents. In order to ensure your safety, forgo driving on bald tires.

How Old Should Tires Be When Purchased?


Generally, tire manufacturers recommend switching your tires at least every 6-10 years. Even quality used tire sets with lots of tread left on them should not be used after this time period. Yet, as long as the used tires do not show signs of aging, they will still provide adequate traction.

Can You Balance Used Tires?


Alignment with used tires is not tricky, as long as the tires were well taken care of. Good used tires, ones that did not suffer any internal damage that can deform them, can be balanced almost as well as new tires. However, there is a difference between the balancing of new and used tires that will always exist.

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