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Part-Worn Tyres: Worse Than Part-Chewed Gum?

Motorists are happy to buy part-worn tyres, despite the risks…

You wouldn’t buy partly-chewed chewing gum, or a partly-demolished house. You would? Maybe it’s time to rethink those consumer spending decisions.

Plenty of Brits are happy to buy part-worn tyres for their cars. This is despite the many safety videos on You Tube presented by earnest, nerdy chaps in really bad jeans. Check them out.

They’ll warn you that, in an episode of hard braking – the type where you can feel the fear crawling all over your neck like diddy spiders – depending on barely-legal tyres on wet roads will result in you joining the occupants of the car in front.

A recent AA survey tells us that more than one in 10 UK drivers will buy one or more part-worn tyres over the next year. In the 18-24 age bracket, that figure is over a quarter. But then, these are the people saddled with repaying the equivalent cost of a Mayfair parking spot in exchange for an honours degree in Golf Management.

17,000 members were interviewed. They found that over half felt new tyres were too expensive. However, as safety experts are fond of telling us, the cost of tyres isn’t measured in pounds and pence. It’s measured in how swiftly and spectacularly you leave the main carriageway and wind up in a fir tree.

But hey, you can buy a part-worn tyre for as little as £10. True. But you can also pay an inebriated baboon to write your CV. It’ll cost you just some berries and maybe a small rodent, but you’re unlikely to get the job. Depending on the job, of course.

Mark Shankland, Managing Director of Tyres at the Association, said: “It’s not surprising that drivers are looking for ways to lower the cost of running their car, but buying used tyres is simply a false economy that continues to mislead millions of motorists each year.

“While initial outlay on a part-worn tyre may be as little as £10, the legal limit for tread is 1.6mm. Buying a used tyre with 2mm left of tread is therefore far less economical than buying a new tyre with 7mm, for example.”

The truth is that, while you might get a year out of a set of new tyres with 7mm tread depth, your shiny part-worns with 2mm tread might be lucky to make it to teatime.

Shankland adds, “Used tyres may seem like an easy way of saving money, but they can very quickly become dangerous to drive on – and that can be an incredibly expensive mistake to make. After all, the penalty for driving with tyres below the legal tread depth in the UK can cost you £2,500 and three points per tyre.”

By the way, let’s consider another safety issue with part-worn tyres: why were they removed in the first place? After all, they’re still legal, right?

This is why it pays to find out a tyre’s history. Which is obviously difficult. There’s no ancestry.com for car tyres. It would be incredibly dull. And demand wouldn’t be high.

Jamie McWhir, Technical Manager at Michelin, said, “One of the issues buying a part-worn tyre is that you have no idea about its history. It was obviously removed from the previous vehicle for a reason. Was it involved in an accident? Was it considered unsafe or damaged?”

However, McWhir added that Michelin tests have shown that a premium-quality worn tyre that can work effectively right down to the legal 1.6mm can outperform a brand new, low-quality budget tyre.

But if your choice really does come down to cost, consider this: AA Tyres has worked out that you’ll pay £6.33 per mm of tread with a part-worn, compared with £5.32 on a new £50 tyre.

So let’s face it: there are no real benefits for the motorist in the long run who buys part-worns, only risks.

Whatever your car needs, just regit

My experience is totally different to this. Our local tyre place stock a large range of high quality part worn tyres, many of which are imported from Germany where winter tyres laws drive compulsory tyre changes. Often you can secure an undamaged brand name part worn with 6-7mm thread for £20 which provides far better life and performance than either a cheap new tyre or more expensive option. I typically buy new brand-name tyres, however there are occasions where a part-worn suits my needs better.

When I first started driving in the mid '60s, you also had the option of 'remoulds', where a layer of rubber was bonded to the original tyre and a tread cut into it (not sure if/when they were made illegal) or even worse, 'recuts', where a deeper tread was cut into the old worn tyre - frightening (and were eventually to be deemed illegal), I have never understood the difference between a £45 'budget ' tyre and a branded tyre at £110 or more, when they both have B and B ratings for wet grip and fuel economy and, 72dB sound quality. You would need nearly three times the mileage to make the branded tyre cost effective, if that is the difference? What are you paying the extra for?

the grip ratings are only measured in a straight line and tyre life is usually shorter OR wet grip compromised on cheaper tyres. I run branded tyres simply because for the same wet CORNERING grip (rather than straight line braking which is what is rated) branded tyres tend to last about twice the mileage, for my own personal useage and progressive driving style (ie I don't break any limits, don't do anything stupid, but I don't pootle about at 30MPH everywhere either, just so its clear what I mean) in the past ive had budget tyres wear from new to illegal in 4000 (YES FOUR THOUSAND) miles, a decent branded one (same driving and on the same car) lasted till after I sold the car, 15,000 miles later! so yes, I personally think branded tyres are worth the extra (hence I have been known to buy part worn, but I also work with tyres, fitting and repairing them as part of my job and have done for 25 years) but it depends on the circumstances, driver, driving style etc. id say budget tyres are fine for mostly city (30MPH) driving, but in more rural areas, id opt for the branded tyres personally.

I can remember a couple of years back reading a test between cheap new tyres vs branded more expensive..............there was a startling difference in the stopping distances in both dry and wet conditions. Cars are heavier and faster than ever now which makes a big difference to the past. We all like a bargain but, quibbling about a few extra quid when you and your families life is at stake doesn't make sense. I know 2 new tyres can cost a hefty amount that you didn't bargain for but put it into perspective......Sky costs you £60 per month and doesn't endanger your life. Like Daniel, I have bought remoulds in the past but we need to change our mentality. "Cheap and Cheerful" doesn't work for tyres. Part worn tyres are not the bargain they once were, as the AA test proves. A point that wasn't mentioned is that modern cars have so many driver aids, ABS..ESP etc.that these can be hampered by dodgy tyres. My advice is to keep to the manufactures recommended tyres, after all, they designed the car to use them.

Always buy new tyres why bother with part worn i buy from a specialist on trade price budget tyres and always good for me. remember this your tyres and brakes need to be good condition as you need them to stop safely. no excuses not to buy new if you cannot buy new tyres dont buy a car end off as live can be saved.

yes i agree with you depends on the driver and driving style and drivers miles it does all add up

I certainly wouldn't opt for part used tyres (though I possibly did 50 years ago as a penniless student!) unless I was sure of the quality suggested by Daniel. But even then....... I am interested in Peter's professional knowledge that 'cornering grip' is not measured in the ratings - I suspect that's not widely known. One wonders why the premium tyre manufacturers don't make more of that in their sales pitch. Otherwise you can buy tyres with identical published ratings and nearly 3x cost variation from the same tyre fitter (I recently did the research). The mileage would have to be of that magnitude to justify the expenditure, assuming they are replaced at the same level of wear before the limit. The one difference seems to be the cornering grip efficiency. I do wonder how much the brand name and the associated advertising costs add to the price. Tyres recommended by the car manufacturer are probably more an indication of a 'kickback' to the car manufacturer - or am I being too cynical?

I have used part worn tyres regularly, the last time I bought four ( a matching pair and two odd ones) fitted and balanced for £80 and when one had a leaky valve the girl was happy to dismount the tyre and replace the valve free of charge - and yes she was City and Guilds qualified. All the tyres were well known brands and had at least 5mm of tread so they will eventually fail the MOT because they have become perished rather than worn out - again! The article above has too many inconsistencies to be taken seriously. I have known tyres fitted to the rear of a car take 10,000 miles to wear a millimetre and I have known front tyres on a classic Mini last only 3000 miles from new. Generalising about such things is simply unrealistic and scaremongering... It is true part worn tyres can be risky. I wouldn't have any fitted that I hadn't inspected myself and I watch my speed for the first 100 miles or so after having them fitted. I use them for two reasons - partly because of the expense of new tyres and the lack of value from them and partly because an average new tyre takes six gallons of oil to produce and so not obtaining the maximum wear from each and every tyre is helping kill the planet and waste our resources. In many ways it isn't so important what type of tyre is fitted to a car but it is very important to try and fit four identical tyres for more predictable braking and handling. One of the most dangerous cars I have ever driven was well shod with new tyres and completely legal but tyre mismatch caused it to hop around on the road like the driver was drunk. Mostly tyre mismatch only causes a moderate amount of jumping around in response to road surface defects but this Austin 1300 was so bad I described it as "an automatic random lane changer". It would literally leap into the next lane every time it touched a road defect. A set of part worn Michelins completely cured it...

Thousands of people buy part-warn tyres every day without even knowing or thinking about it! Nearly-new or second-hand cars anyone? Or rental vehicles? When do they ever come with a fresh set of tyres? Almost never! So what's the diffence compared to buying part warn tyres? None because you carry the same risks. I've not heard of a recent major incident caused through faulty tyres. Lorries colliding and tipping over on the M5 yes, or collisions through weather and visibility sure. But major incidents where tyre wear is at fault - certainly not nationally or locally to me. I'd rather people who can't afford £50 per tyre or £200 for a full set of tyres spend £10 on a part worn tyre, something second hand and still legal, than not bother at all, frankly.

I get top branded part worn tyres for £20. A lot of lease or fleet cars change tyres every 12 months with a lot of tread on the tyre. I find it more financially better to get these part worn tyres. It helps to look at the range of tyres the mechanic has before the job has started.