Do used tires stack up? We put them to the test

New tires are expensive. But if you find yourself with a flat, are used tires a good alternative? We brought in automotive engineer Pam Oakes to find out if they are the secret to saving or buyer beware.

What we bought

WINK News bought four used tires from four different places. At the shop, we asked employees for a certain size, its age and remaining life.

The first tire we purchased for $20 had a nail in it. While it did not puncture the tire, Oakes tells us she would not use it.

“If you run into a driveway a certain way or kiss a curb, this could push it all the way through.”

The second tire we bought for $35 had choppy tread.

“Right away I would throw this out,” Oakes said “this had a little bit of a rough life here.”

The third tire, purchased for $30, had a large nail in it.

Another waste of money.

The fourth tire was the only one to pass Oakes’ inspection. She said while it would make a good spare, it was overpriced at $40.

“They should’ve charged you, maybe $15?”

Oakes suggests negotiating a lower price, if possible.

What to look for

Like used cars, used tires are sold as is. It is up to the consumer, not the employee, to thoroughly inspect the tire.

Tire size and age are easy to check because the information is on the side of the tire.

The age is four numbers. The first two are the week it was manufactured and the second two are the year. Oakes says not to buy a tire older than six years for warranty purposes.

Where to check for the tire size, left, and tire year, right. (Credit: WINK News)
Where to check for the tire size, left, and tire year, right. (Credit: WINK News)

Each business explains the remaining life of a used tire differently. Some gave us a time frame, others a percentage.

Oakes says these are not good estimates.

“My 10% of a shot glass is going to be different from your 10% of a shot glass.”

Instead, measure tread depth with a tread depth gauge.

Tread, measured in 32nds of an inch, is what keeps you on the road. Oakes says you want at least 4/32 of 5/32. New tires typically come with 10/32 or 11/32.

While shops should have the tool on hand, they are inexpensive to purchase.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says “tires are not safe and should be replaced when the tread is worn down to 2/32.”

Lastly, avoid plugs.

How long will it last?

While used tires are budget friendly, Oakes warns they’re only a temporary fix.

If you are unsure about the tire, ask questions until you understand what is going on your car.

Oakes has a simple rule of thumb when making vehicle-related purchases.

“Think, would I do this for my moms car?”

When you are done with the tire, Lee County says passenger-sized tires can be placed curbside (2 per week) for regular pick up.

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