Currently reading: Are part-worn tyres safe?
We consider the pros and cons of part-worn tyres, and what to look out for
4 mins read
12 August 2020

In straitened times it’s little wonder so many drivers baulk at the cost of a new set of tyres. One solution, at least for some, is to avoid buying brand new rubber altogether and instead buy tyres that have already been used by somebody else. They’re called part-worn tyres. 

UK law on part-worn tyres

In the UK, buying or selling part-worn tyres is not illegal. In fact, according to industry body TyreSafe, as many as 5.5 million used tyres are sold here every year. Vendors are bound by law to adhere to a number of strict regulations, however. First and foremost, second-hand tyres should be in good condition, which means no bulges in the sidewall and no large cuts in the tread, while none of the structural carcass or cords should be visible. Additionally, they should have have at least 2mm of tread across their width and around their circumference, and they should be clearly and permanently marked ‘part-worn’ in upper case letters at least 4mm in height on their sidewalls. 

Although these regulations are very straightforward, many part-worn tyre suppliers are known to flout them. If you are considering buying a set of used tyres, make sure the vendor is compliant with these laws - and remember, tyres that do not meet these minimum requirements could cause you to have a very serious accident. 

Advantages of part-worn tyres

As has been pointed out many times before, if you buy a second-hand car and don’t replace the tyres with a new set immediately, you are in effect buying part-worn tyres. Lots of us will admit to having done exactly that with no idea whatsoever where those tyres have come from or what their history might be. 

Some part-worn tyres are shipped over from Germany, where the minimum legal tread depth is 3mm. In the UK it’s 1.6mm, so a part-worn tyre imported from Germany will still have plenty of tread left and perhaps a couple of thousand miles still to run. 

The big advantage of part-worn tyres, of course, is that they cost less than brand new tyres. What’s more, by buying a set of used rubber you might be able to afford a higher quality tyre from a big name brand, rather than a budget tyre from a manufacturer you’ve never heard of. 


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Disadvantages of part-worn tyres

Safety. It’s as simple as that. If somebody has removed a set of tyres from their car, they have done so because they no longer consider them to be safe. If those tyres aren’t good enough for another driver, are they really good enough for you? 

With less tread depth than a brand new tyre, part-worns will generate less grip, particularly in the wet. That means your car will have less traction and - more pertinently - less cornering and braking grip. 

A survey carried out by TyreSafe found that up to 98 per cent of used tyres sold in Britain did not comply with the regulations, while 34 per cent could be considered dangerous. However, even a tyre that does satisfy the regulations could be harbouring a nasty secret, whereas a brand new tyre will not. 

It is also the case that second hand tyres will not last as long as new tyres. You’ll have to replace them much more often, so the savings will be less substantial than they might first appear. A new tyre might have a much as 8mm of tread, whereas a part-worn might only have a quarter of that. It’ll therefore only be fit for a few hundred miles and will need replacing before long. 

Alternatives to part-worn tyres

In years gone by remoulded tyres, or retreaded tyres, were a popular solution. Remoulds are still legal in the UK, as long as they comply with strict regulations, and if manufactured with care they needn’t be significantly less safe than new tyres. Retreading a tyre involves stripping the tread and sidewall from a used tyre (the structure of which should be in good condition) and applying new rubber to the carcass. As budget tyres from the Far East have become more commonplace, though, remoulded tyres have accordingly become less popular.

Should I buy part-worn tyres?

If we could guarantee that part-worn tyres were completely safe and compliant with the regulations, there’d be little reason to be wary of them. However, as those TyreSafe figures demonstrate, there are no such assurances.

The truth of the matter is this; if there was one area of car maintenance in which you shouldn’t scrimp on cost, it’d be the only part of the car that actually makes contact with the road - the tyres.

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Paul Heaton, R&D Director at Pirelli UK feels very strongly about part-worn tyres. "All part-worn tyres are required to be thoroughly inspected internally and externally before sale, but in reality, far too many have not been checked at all,’ he says. ‘Many tyres are sold with structural damage that should mean the tyre is scrapped. The best course of action is simply to avoid part-worn tyres."

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4 January 2019
The difference in cost between new and part worn tires is equal to a few bottles of whisky. If you save the whisky and buy new tire, you double your prospects to survive: You drive on good, new rubber and you drive sober

4 January 2019

How did arrive at a limit of 1.6mm? why wasn't it rounded to 2.0mm

4 January 2019
xxxx wrote:

How did arrive at a limit of 1.6mm? why wasn't it rounded to 2.0mm

I think it's a hangover from imperial measurements. 1.6mm is almost exactly 1/16 of an inch.


4 January 2019

Selling part-worn tyres should be made illegal.

If a driver cannot afford to keep their car in a safe condition then they shouldn't be using it on public roads.

4 January 2019

Part worn tyres are perfectly safe if they meet the legal/MOT requirements. As soon as a new set of tyres have been driven a few miles they become "part worn". Youre a fool whos fallen for scaremongering marketing hype designed to make you buy new tyres.

4 January 2019
typos1 wrote:

Part worn tyres are perfectly safe if they meet the legal/MOT requirements. As soon as a new set of tyres have been driven a few miles they become "part worn". Youre a fool whos fallen for scaremongering marketing hype designed to make you buy new tyres.

I would rather be a live fool than a dead scrimper.

5 January 2019
typos1 wrote:

Part worn tyres are perfectly safe if they meet the legal/MOT requirements. 

Really? Since when did an MOT check the structural condition of a tyre carcass, answer - it doesnt..  

4 January 2019

I'm pretty sure that the limit was set at 1/16 inch (=1.6mm).  Good for tyre longevity, if not safety! 

I think the new v part worn argument is largely irrelevant. What's arguably more important is regular inspection, tyre pressure checks and not driving over or up against kerbs. Perhaps the article was sponsored / written by the tyre industry who would no doubt prefer to sell more tyres...

4 January 2019

We are all driving around on part worn tyres. The process of taking them off one car and putting them on another doesn't make them unsafe. If someone changes the wheels on their car and is left with a set of wheels and tyres with 5mm tread remaining, why shouldn't they be sold on if they are in otherwise good condition? It would be a waste to dispose of them.

4 January 2019

Article took the very words out of my mouth - anyone buying a used car (that'll be most of us) is also buying part-worn tyres. However I suspect it'll be the same folk who'll preach to others that part worn tyres are dangerous, not cost effective and should be avoided at all cost. The hypocrisy is unbelievable.

Of course as soon as you drive off the forecourt in your brand new car, you're also driving on part-worn tyres.

Part worn tyres are not the problem but illegal tyres are.


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