Should I Buy Used Tires? Yes, but read this first!


There are several reasons you might be tempted to buy used tires, but the bigger question is, should you?

On average, a set of four new tires can cost anywhere from $200-$1000, while used tires often cost between $25-$170. Buying quality pre-owned tires is an excellent way to save money and helps the environment by decreasing the number of tires that wind up in landfills each year.

Tires are an important part of your vehicle. They are single-handedly responsible for keeping your vehicle on the road. For this reason, it is important to understand more about pre-owned tires before you start shopping for them.

Rack of tires

Where Do Used Tires Come From?

Not all used tires come from a junkyard in someone’s backyard. A lot of dealerships carry pre-owned tires that have come from newer vehicles. In most cases, these tires were either factory mounted, and the buyer swapped them out for customized tires, or they have come from vehicles that received interior damage in a flood or other disaster.

Another way that dealerships get used tires is through customers who need to dispose of their old ones. While most people will rotate their tires to get the most use out of them, there are quite a few people who swap their tires out long before they need to be. However, since tires are often hard to dispose of, customers will pay extra for disposal. The garage keeps the tires and will re-sell ones that are in good condition.

Although most dealerships take strides to remain reputable, there are those who deal with more shady practices. These dealerships may try to sell tires that they know are no longer in working condition. You can avoid falling into this fraud by arming yourself with the information below.

What Should I Know Before Buying Pre-Owned Tires?

Before buying a pre-owned tire, you should find out how old the tire is, check it for any defects or holes, measure the tread depth, look for wear patterns, and research the brand of tire. Most tire dealers won’t allow returns on used tires, which is why it is important to learn as much as you can about the tire before you buy it.

Alternatively, check the Amazon link below for car tires conveniently delivered to your door.

Amazon Car Tires

How Do I Check a Tires Age?

Have you ever wondered what all those numbers, characters, and letters on the sidewall of a tire meant? Turns out, they all mean something. When trying to find out how old a tire is, simply look for the Department of Transportation (DOT) number found on the side of the tire. This code contains information about when and where that specific tire was manufactured. The exact location may vary, depending on the brand, but it will always say DOT.

Once you have found the DOT number, look at the last four digits. This is the tire’s date code. The first two numbers tell you in what week of the year it was made. The last two digits will tell you about the year. For example, if the code were 3420, the tire would have been manufactured during the 34th week of the year 2020.

Experts suggest that a tire should be changed after six years, and even when kept in storage, tires should be discarded after six years.

How Do I Check a Tire for Defects?

Most dealers will have already checked a tire for the most common signs of tire problems. However, if you are buying it from a less reputable dealer, or from a private individual, checking for those problems will be your responsibility.

You will want to look for any signs of cracking or budging because this is a sure sign that the rubber is starting to wear down. Typically, it is safe to drive on a tire that has minor or barely visible cracking. However, after time these cracks could grow into a much bigger problem.

How Can I Quickly Measure Tread Depth on a Tire?

One of the easiest ways to measure the tread depth on a tire is by using a penny. Hold the penny sideways and insert it into the tread of the tire. If, after you do that, you can still see President Lincoln’s head, the tire is worn or underinflated.

Are Used Tires Inspectable?

This depends on your local laws and the condition of the tire. If you have found an almost brand-new tire, then it will surely pass inspection. However, if you have a worn or cracked tire, the mechanics may tell you that you need to change the tires before you can get your inspection sticker. You can learn more about the laws surrounding car inspection from your local Department of Motor Vehicles.

How Do I Know What Size a Tire Is?

Have you ever read the sidewall of your tire and found a string of numbers that said something like “255/70 R 15.” Well, it is within that string of numbers that you will find the tire size. The first three digits report the width of the tire in millimeters from one sidewall to the other, so our tire would be 255 millimeters wide. The next two-digit number is the aspect ratio.

So, in our example, the height is 70% of the tire’s width. The “R” stands for radial, or you might see a “B,” which stands for Bias. Finally, the last number tells us what size rim the tire was made to fit onto and the diameter of the tire. Think back to Algebra and remember that the diameter of a circle is the length of the line that runs through the center of it. In our example, the tire is 15 inches in diameter.

It may sound like a lot of information, and it is a lot to digest all at once. However, these numbers are all especially important in the purchase of a new tire because cars are made to function with a certain size tire mounted.

How Do I Find Out What Size Tire Fits My Car?

Typically, people decide what size tire to buy based on what size is already on their vehicle. However, if you are unsure whether the tire on your vehicle is the right size or suspect someone may have put the wrong tire on by mistake, you can find out what size tire your car was intended to run on by looking in the user’s manual for your vehicle. You may also find this information located somewhere around the driver’s side door.

Is It a Good Idea to Buy Pre-Owned Tires?

If you find the right dealership and follow the rules outlined above, you should be able to shop for and buy a used tire that is not only safe but will last you for a couple of years. So, if you want to save money while doing your part to reduce waste in the environment, you might buy used.

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John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. I've been a mechanic for over twenty-five years, and I've worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Landrover, and Jaguar dealerships. My passion is cars. I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of car ownership, including buying advice, maintenance, and troubleshooting.

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