A recent survey by fast-fit chain HiQ found that 35% of motorists are currently choosing to buy part-worn (second-hand) tyres for their cars.
In case you are not familiar with the part-worn tyre market, this means that about a third of motorists are buying used tyres – tyres that have been taken off other cars to be scrapped but instead are being sold to
suckers motorists in the UK.
Isn’t That A Bit Harsh?
Perhaps, but I don’t think so. You decide what you think and leave a comment at the end – especially if you’ve used part-worn tyres.
First of all, I agree that times are tough at the moment and many motorists are being forced to reduce the cost of running their cars wherever possible. The problem is that buying second-hand tyres doesn’t really fulfil this requirement – plus it can be dangerous.
There are three main problems with part-worn tyres:
- Potential for invisible sidewall damage – a serious safety risk;
- Poor value, when you work out the cost per mile;
- You get the worst of the tyre’s performance, without getting the best of it first.
Let’s look at these problems a little more closely.
The biggest problem with part-worn tyres is the safety risk they present.
Part-worn tyres are used tyres that have been removed from other cars to be scrapped.
Some part-worn tyres come from accident-damaged cars that have been written off, but the main source of part-worn tyres for the UK market is Germany.
Why Germany? Germans take tyre safety much more seriously than us Brits, and rarely use tyres below 3-4mm of tread depth. Germans also swap tyres twice a year, as winter tyres are compulsory during the winter months.
If a typical German driver removes summer tyres with 3-4mm of tread left, he will scrap them and buy new ones in the spring. These scrap tyres then become part-worn tyres, ready for resale in the UK.
All this might sound acceptable on paper – but what many people don’t understand is that tyres can have serious structural damage that is not visible. The previous owner of the tyre could have been anyone – the tyre could have been crashed and there could be sidewall damage from under-inflation, punctures or repeated abuse on kerbs and other obstructions.
Another potential problem is age. When tyres get old, the rubber starts to deteriorate and the sidewalls of the tyres can crack, increasing the risk of a blowout. For this reason, it is often necessary to replace old tyres even if they are not worn out. This is especially common on low-mileage vehicles.
When buying a part-worn tyre, it is entirely possible that you will end up with a tyre that is already at the end of its natural lifespan, even though it has enough tread remaining to be legal.
Note: All tyres are marked with a manufacturing date. To learn how to read this, have a look at our Tyre Markings page (near the bottom).
Poor Value: Part-Worns Are Expensive
Of course, the reason people by part-worn tyres is that they appear to be much cheaper than new tyres – part-worns are usually around £15-£20 per tyre.
This seems cheap at first glance, but let’s look at the price in a little more detail. To make this more realistic, I have priced up part-worn tyres and new mid-range tyres for my car and then worked out how much they would cost for each millimetre of usable tread (remaining within the 1.6mm legal limit).
Part-worn tyres: £20 per tyre with 4mm tread remaining
Usable tread: 2.4mm
Cost per millimetre of usable tread: £8.33
Mid-range new tyres: £60
Usable tread: 6.4mm (new tyres normally have 8mm tread)
Cost per millimetre of usable tread: £9.37
So far, the part-worn tyres are slightly cheaper – but remember that you will have to pay to have them fitted. Tyre fitting usually costs around £10-£15 per tyre.
That means that for each pair of new tyres, you will have to replace part-worn tyres two or three times. All those extra trips to the fast-fit centre will wipe out any savings you made by buying used tyres, leaving you well out of pocket compared to the cost of buying and fitting a single pair of new tyres.
The final argument against part-worn tyres is this: Even if we assume that the tyres you buy are not damaged and are an equally worn pair, you will still only be getting the last bit of their legal life.
Tyre performance gets noticeably worse when tread depth falls below 3mm, so most of the time you are using it, your part-worn tyre will be giving its last gasp of life, offering substandard braking performance and wet grip. As I found recently, the difference in wet grip between new and part-worn tyres is surprisingly large.
In comparison, if you buy a new tyre, you will get to benefit from its optimum performance before it starts to wear down. Sounds like a no-brainer to me.
Part-Worn Tyres – Don’t Do It
Part-worn tyres are not a good idea and do not offer particularly good value. They may well have hidden structural damage that will cause them to fail at high speed and are not even particularly cheap when you look at the cost per millimetre of usable tread and factor in the extra tyre fitting costs.
In addition, by buying part-worn tyres, you are getting the tail-end of the tyre’s performance. There is clear proof that tyre performance deteriorates noticeably when tread depth falls below 3mm. This is especially true under heavy braking and in the wet; just when you need grip the most.
I will leave you with one final thought. Environmental disposal of scrap tyres costs £3 per tyre – that’s what tyre fitting centres have to pay to get rid of scrap tyres.
On the other hand, rumour has it that the trade price of a part-worn tyre is £1.50. I’m sure you can see how this provides a powerful incentive for tyre dealers to sell their part-worn tyres instead of scrapping them, whatever condition they are in…
Have you got an opinion on part-worn tyres? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.