How To Buy Good Used Tires For Any Vehicle

Buying used tires can seem daunting to the uninitiated. Here are some tips to make sure you end up with quality, well-kept tires:

Regardless of how many safety and performance features a vehicle has, their effectiveness is ultimately decided by the tires.

That small patch of rubber at the bottom of the tire is the only thing connecting the vehicle to the road.

The thickness, condition, and type of tread (the pattern of raised bands that touch the road) determine how the steering responds to driver actions, how the suspension responds to curves, and the distance it will take to stop the vehicle.

Details Of A Good Used Tire

Tread Depth – The tread depth is the measurement, in inches, from the top of a tread to the bottom of its deepest valley.

A typical new tire has a tread depth of 10/32 to 11/32 of an inch, and the minimum legal tread depth is 2/32 of an inch (meaning a tire with a tread less than 2/32 of an inch is not legal).

A good used tire should have at least 5-6/32 of its tread depth remaining. You can easily measure the tread depth by inserting a quarter into the tread.

If Abe’s head is not visible, then the tread depth is at least 6/32’s of an inch. If  Abe’s head is visible, then the tire has reached the legal minimum tread of 2/32.

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How To Buy Good Used Tires For Any Vehicle
What to look for when buying used tire

A used tire with a tread depth of 6/32 should be able to cover around 10,000 km’s. It will also allow you to stop 100ft / 30m shorter than a tire with a 2/32 tread depth.

Tread and Sidewall Condition

A good used tire should have even treadwear (the tread should be worn out evenly), with no slick or smooth surfaces.

The sidewalls should also be in good condition with no cracks, chips, or cuts.

Look for wear rings in the sidewalls, as this will indicate the tire was driven when flat.

Since driving on a flat tire can break down the structural integrity of the sidewall, pass on tires that show this type of wear.

Look for cracking between the tread blocks and where the tread meets the sidewall.

You can push down on the tire and push in on the sidewall to expose hidden cracks.


Look inside of the tire for signs of repair. If you see crude nubs of rubber sticking up, then the tire has been repaired with a ‘plug’.

A plug is a piece of rubber that has been inserted in a hole in a damaged tire to repair the hole.

A tire plug is less effective than a tire patch, and used tires with visible tire plug repairs should be avoided.


To determine the age of a used tire, look on the sidewall near the bottom edge.

Look for the letters “DOT”; to the right of “DOT” you will see a 4-digit number.

The first two numbers indicate the week the tire was made (thus a number from 01 to 52), and the last two numbers indicate the year.

You want to avoid used tires that are over 6 years old, because the oil in the rubber starts to dry out over time, leading to dry rot, cracking, and an unsafe tire.

When explained, the tire numbers make simple sense and give you a lot of information about the tire.

If you follow these simple steps, you will be able to buy used tires that are not only safe, but offer great value too.