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March 28, 2014

To Buy or Not to Buy Used Tires: RNR Answers the Question

Dear Bree,

I’m in need of a new set of tires, but I really can’t afford to go out and buy a brand new set right now.  I’m considering buying used tires instead.  A friend of mine bought her tires used, and they seem just fine.  My worry is this: I don’t know anything about tires.  I don’t know what I need, and I don’t know how to tell if the tires I want to buy are any good.  So, I’m wondering if you can give me some tips on buying some tires used.  Thanks!

Going Bald in Baldwin


Dear Baldy,

The short answer is no, and here’s why.  Buying used tires is a mixed bag at best.  Maybe you’ll get a good set, who knows, but the chance that you won’t is higher, and why would you want to drive around on a maybe?  I completely understand that tires can be a big expense, and sometimes an unexpected expense, but there are better ways to get a new set of tires than to go and by them used.  But before we get into all that, I want to let you know my concerns about buying used tires because I think it’s important for you to know.

When you buy used tires, you really don’t know what you’re getting.  You can eyeball them and see if there’s a good amount of tread left, check for dry rot, etc. but without knowing the history of the tire, there are things you won’t be able to see, like whether or not they’ve been damaged internally by carrying too much weight, under inflation, or being driven at high speeds.  And don’t forget, tires age and decay, and you may not always see the evidence of that, especially if you don’t know what to look for.

Other issues are, of course, tread wear and dry rot, which I mentioned earlier.  Dry rot happens to tires over time when tires are exposed to too much sun and heat, when they’ve been under-inflated, and when they sit around, rarely driven and maybe even improperly stored.  Ever seen a car that just sits and sits, maybe covered, maybe not, but it’s rarely driven?  Take a look at its tires.  If you see some fine lines and cracks along the sidewall and up to the tread, you’re seeing dry rot.  Sometimes the tires become somewhat discolored, as well, and look more gray than black.  Tires with dry rot become hard and brittle and are much more likely to blow, which is never a good thing.  Check out this previous blog for more info about dry rot.

Tread wear is always an important factor in judging a tire safe to drive, and we recommend the Abe Lincoln test if you’re unsure about whether or not your tires should be replaced due to tread wear.  Remember that this measures what we consider a minimum tread depth; if you fail the Abe Lincoln test, don’t put it off–replace your tires.  There are plenty of people out there selling used tires that have less tread wear than is safely, or in some cases, legally allowable.  If you don’t know what a safe amount of tread looks like, you may buy unsafe tires and be back where you started, but worse–still needing new tires but out the money you just spent to buy used tires.

People all over the country are buying used tires and too many of those people are, quite frankly, being ripped off.  Often, because they don’t know what they’re looking for, they buy unsafe tires that have dry rot or other damage that the consumer simply doesn’t recognize, then they hit the road with tires that are an accident waiting to happen.  In response to this, Texas and Florida (and lots of other states are catching on) have enacted legislation to define and ban the sale of unsafe used tires.  For instance, in Texas and Florida, a tire is considered “unsafe” if it has tread less than 2/32 inch deep (that definitely fails Abe’s test), and so can’t be sold.  The point of this legislation: To protect consumers and make our highways safer.

So, my advice to you, Baldy, is to scrap that used tire idea.  We know buying a new set of tires can be stressful; you have to be ready financially and it’s always good to know what you’re looking for.  So, please, come in and talk to us at RNR.  We can tell you what kind of tires would be best and give you some different options to consider.  Feel free to take our advice home and do your own research, too.  We don’t mind!  And when you’ve made a decision, we’ll help you get moving again with a payment plan that fits your budget.  “I can’t afford new tires,” doesn’t work here at RNR.  We say, you can’t afford to drive tires that are unsafe.  The costs are so much higher in an accident.

Stay safe, friend.



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