Coming in many shapes and forms, used tyres are often substantially cheaper than new ones – their main selling point among price-conscious drivers – however, that too comes at a price. The most common concerns surrounding used tyres are associated with the safety and the legality of buying second hand parts for your car.

Used tyres and the law

In the UK, it is legal to sell and buy used tyres, but they must conform to the standards of the Motor Vehicle Tyres (Safety) Regulations 1994 (reg.7.). It constitutes part of the Consumer Protection Act and makes it a legal requirement for all tyres intended for retail to be:

  • Structurally sound – there cannot be any large cuts, bulges, or lumps either internally or externally. Similarly, no plies or cords should be exposed.
  • Able to pass the inflation test
  • Intact – the original grooves should be visible and consistently present across the tyres with a minimum depth of 2mm at any given point.
  • Equipped with appropriate tyre markings – all part-worn tyres should be marked with the letter “E”. The term “part-worn” should be permanently and legibly applied to the side of the tyres in letters of 4mm or more.

These regulations are in place to ensure that the tyres being sold meet the minimum safety requirements, but also to ensure that the consumer is empowered to make the right decision. Unfortunately, they are often dismissed by retailers. To avoid undesirable circumstances, it is always best practice to familiarise yourself with the specific tyre laws and regulations in your region.

Used car tyres

In 2018, 18 investigations were carried out involving 68 part-worn tyre retailers in the UK. Of the approximately 130 tyres inspected, 75% were deemed entirely unsafe or non-roadworthy by the inspecting team. So, although buying second hand tyres is theoretically safe, you need to know how to assess the state of the tyres in question.

What to look for when buying used tyres

When you are considering buying tyres from second hand, the most important thing you must do is check them over yourself – preferably before they are fitted onto your car. Make sure there are no cuts, gashes, bulges, or other defects on the outside or inside of the tyre. You should pay special attention to the tyre tread – make sure that it is at least 3mms deep at any given point. You should also try to be present at the tyre fitting stage. If you cannot be present, make sure that you check the tyres after they have been fitted and before you leave the shop.

Mechanic replacing car tyre

Our tips for buying used tyres are:

  • Buy from a reputable seller
  • Look for respected tyre brands
  • Check for damage to the tyre and tubing
  • Buy tyres in pairs to ensure they match the axles on your car

Should I buy used tyres?

That is a question only you can answer. Part-worn tyres are certainly cheaper than new ones, but there are problems associated with this. The most obvious concern is safety – if you cannot be sure that the tyres you are buying are reliable, you need to start weighing up your priorities. The worst case scenario could be having to buy a whole new set of tyres upon your next MOT inspection, but you could just as well find your tyres losing grip when you need it most.

Car tyres on wet surface

Aside from safety issues, there is also the matter of cost-effectiveness. Saving 30% to 50% on a set of tyres is very noticeable, of course, but UK safety requirements are strict, and so the use you get out of your second hand tyres will be reduced. 

What this potentially means is that you could end up having to buy tyres twice, perhaps even three times more than you would normally, depending on how much you drive. As such, many drivers see buying used tyres as somewhat of a false economy.

Other alternatives to used tyres

Remoulded or retreaded tyres are a common alternative to used tyres. Retreading involves stripping the tread and sidewall from a used tyre and applying new rubber to the carcass. This works perfectly well so long as the structure of the tyre is well-maintained and has no punctures or weaknesses. But there is one more option – economy tyres

Budget-friendly tyres – frequently imported from China and Japan – are steadily becoming a viable alternative to new and part-worn tyres. And while these are less durable than the high-end options, they are more often than not a safer bet than second hand tyres.

New car tyres

In the end of the day, what it all comes down to is perspective. Some view second hand tyres as a compromise of safety in favour of a tighter budget, others as a price-conscious technique to avoid overpayment. However you see it, we hope to have given you the tools to make an informed decision when it comes time to replace your current set of tyres. Safe travels!