The cheap price tag can be tempting, but is it safe to buy part-worn tyres? Read our expert guide for all the facts.
What are part-worn tyres?
Part-worn tyres are tyres that have been removed from another car and re-sold. If your tyres aren’t brand new, then they are part-worn.
They could have been recovered from write-offs or scrapped cars, or simply from people who like to replace their tyres early.
It is perfectly legal to put used tyres on your car in the UK. And let’s be honest, if you’ve ever bought a second-hand car and kept the existing tyres on it, you’ve technically driven on part-worn tyres. Many budget-conscious drivers choose to buy part-worn tyres rather than paying for expensive brand new ones. It’s estimated that 5.5 million used tyres are sold in the UK every year, according to industry body TyreSafe.
Is it safe to buy part-worn tyres?
There are strict laws that regulate the sale of used tyres, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all vendors follow the rules. Part-worn tyres must be in ‘good condition’ – which means no bulges in the tyre wall, no large cuts or other damage, and none of the structural carcass or cords should be visible. They should also be clearly marked and sold as “part worn”. Importantly, they should have at least 2mm of tread across their entire width and around their circumference (for comparison, new tyres will have up to 8mm tread).
Worn tyres will provide less grip, which can increase your stopping distance and increase your risk of skidding and sliding – especially on wet roads. By their nature they will also require replacing sooner – so the savings in the long-run might not be as significant as you think.
Pros of buying part-worn tyres
Low cost – The big draw is the low price. Part-worn tyres cost a fraction of what new tyres do.
Cheaper branded tyres – If you shop around you could get your hands on a set of big brand tyres – such as Michelin, Goodyear or Pirelli – at a lower price than the cheapest new tyres.
Cons of part-worn tyres
Safety – This is the big one. No matter how good the condition of the tyres appears to be, you simply cannot guarantee that they are safe. Unlike new tyres, you just don’t know where the tyres came from or how they’ve been treated.
Lifespan – They might cost you less money upfront, but part-worn tyres won’t last as long as new ones, and will need replacing more frequently.
Alternatives to part-worn tyres
Budget brand new tyres
If price is your main concern, most garages will stock lesser-known brands that are considerably cheaper than the well-known makes. If you’re not concerned about famous brands, ask your garage for a set of budget tyres. They will still be new, and therefore much safer than part-worns.
Remoulded tyres/retreaded tyres
These have become less popular in recent years as the price of budget brands has come down, but remoulded tyres are a good (and safer) alternative to part-worn. Re-treading involves taking an old tyre, stripping away the worn tread and sidewall, and applying new rubber. Again, there are strict rules and the underlying tyre carcass should be in good condition. If bought from a reputable company, remoulded tyres are a good compromise between new and part-worn.
The cold, hard truth is this – whenever you buy part-worn tyres you’re taking a gamble. The research shows that the majority of sellers flout the rules, which means your used tyres could be potentially lethal. And if there’s one area where you shouldn’t skimp on car maintenance, it’s your tyres.