Worn tires are a recipe for disaster on the road. Unfortunately, many people drive on unsafe tires because they can’t afford to invest in a brand new set. After all, depending on the size, a single tire can cost a few hundred dollars. That’s why some people opt for used tires, but are they safe? Many used tires are in excellent condition and still have over half of their life left. Here are a few tips to help you pick out safe and reliable used tires.
- Read Up on the Brand
As you head out to find used tires, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the different brands out there. There are plenty of mainstream brands and lots of lesser-known ones. Read plenty of consumer reviews to see what other drivers have to say. After all, there may be a reason the former owner decided to trade in their tires. Before agreeing on the price, make sure you know the original retail price. This will ensure you don’t overpay for used tires.
- Know the Age of the Tires
Old tires don’t perform as well as they once did, and the material is more likely to crack as it ages. Dealing with a blowout is the last thing anyone wants. Tires are considered outdated after five to six years. Check the writing on the side of the tread to determine the age. Every tire is branded with a Tire Identification Number, and the last four digits indicate the week and year of manufacture. For example, if the digits are 4815, the tire was made during the 48th week of 2015. Make sure the used tires you select are under five years old.
- Examine the Tire Tread
Even if a tire was manufactured only a few months ago, it’s not worth anything if there’s no tread left. That’s why you should measure the tread with a tire depth gauge. Make sure the tires have 4/32nds or more of tread depth. Knowing how much tread is left will also give you a bit of bartering power. If the tire only has 50-percent of its tread remaining, you shouldn’t pay more than half the original cost.
- Find Out the Treadwear Rating
Softer tires wear out faster than firm ones, but it’s not always easy to tell the difference just by looking. That’s why you should search for the Uniform Tire Quality Grade Standards (UTQG) rating, also known as the treadwear rating. The lower the number, the softer the tire. Steer clear of used tires if the rating is below 200, especially if you want them to last. Tires rated 200-400 should last a normal lifespan. If the tires have a lower rating, you may want to think twice before buying them unless longevity isn’t a concern.
- Check for Uneven Wear
No tire is perfectly round, and they all hit the pavement at different angles. Proper maintenance, however, can prevent uneven treadwear. There’s a reason you should get your tires rotated at least twice a year. Unbalanced tires wear unevenly, and uneven tread reduces the lifespan of a tire. How can you spot uneven treads? Check to see if the tread is worn more near the edges than in the middle. There may be excessive wear on only one side, or the tire may have obvious dips in the tread. As a rule of thumb, never buy used tires with signs of even tread wear.
- Inspect the Surface
Always inspect the surface of used tires before signing on the dotted line. Some problems are easy to see. Avoid used tires with obvious defects, including bubbles in the sidewall. Defective tires are more likely to blow without warning, and it could put you in a dangerous situation. You should also be leery of any patches. There’s no way of telling if the tire will properly hold air. That doesn’t mean you can’t buy previously patched tires. Just be aware they may not last as long, and you should offer very little to the seller.
- Look for the Right Size
Tires aren’t a one-size-fits-all purchase. Every make and model of vehicle requires different tire sizes. If you don’t know which size is right, look at the driver side door’s inside frame. Vehicle manufacturers print all the information you need to buy tires right there. Installing the wrong size tires on a vehicle can cause a load of problems. Improperly fitted tires may damage other areas of the car, including the brakes, axles, CV joints, differential components, and the transmission. Additionally, you’ll probably see a reduction in gas mileage. If you can’t find used tires in the right size, keep looking elsewhere. It’s not worth taking a risk to save a few dollars.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Haggle
New tires have a firm sticker price. Although you may be able to catch a sale, you pretty much know the price from the start. However, people selling used tires are usually more flexible about pricing. There is some wiggle room to get a better deal depending on the condition of the tires. After inspecting a set of tires and deciding they’re good enough to buy, make an offer. If the seller doesn’t accept, explain precisely why you won’t pay a dime more. Go in armed with the treadwear rating, tire depth, age, and original price, and it will be easy to negotiate. Don’t feel bad about looking elsewhere if you can’t make a reasonable deal.
Are Used Tires Worth the Hassle?
After seeing everything that goes into buying used tires, you may wonder if it’s worth the hassle. For many drivers, the answer is a resounding yes. Not everyone has the cash on hand to buy a new set of tires, and purchasing used is a lot more affordable. Furthermore, buying used tires gives you a chance to test out different brands, materials, and higher-performance styles without investing too much money upfront. However, you can’t trust every used tire you find. Taking the time to research the age, tread depth, UTQG rating, consumer reviews, and condition of the tires will ensure you find a set that will provide you many miles of smooth, carefree driving.