Purchasing a used tire is a balancing act. You must weigh cost savings against safety issues. Some people adamantly oppose the purchase of used tires; however, there are many factors that determine whether or not they're a good deal. And if you do your homework, they can be a smart purchase that will save you money and provide safe driving conditions for many years.
How to determine if a tire is safe
A tire's age is the most important factor in determining whether it is a good purchase or not. While many people consider tread depth as the critical issue, it's not. According to Edmonds.com, the tire's tread may be fine, but if the rubber compound in the tire has eroded, the tire is unsafe.
Age is just as important in a new tire as it is in a used tire. Why? Because new tires stocked in a warehouse can be more dangerous than used tires that are not as old.
If you drive at least 12,000 miles a year, your tire tread will wear out before the rubber compound. However, the rubber compound in tires breaks down with age. If you only drive half that many miles, the rubber compound may wear out before the tire tread does. That's why the spare tire in your trunk and the stacks of tires in warehouses are particularly susceptible to wearing out before they show signs of tread wear.
The DOT number
So, how can you determine a tire's age? Well, every tire that was made after the year 2000 has a four-digit Department of Transportation (DOT) number on its firewall. The first two numbers indicate the week that the tire was made and the last two numbers identify the year the tire was made. Therefore, if the DOT number on a tire is 1011, the tire was made in the tenth week of 2011.
If the tire only has a three-digit DOT number, it was made before the year 2000. Some tire manufacturers recommend replacing a tire when it is 10 years old, and some car manufacturers advise replacing the tire in half that time.
After you've established the age of the tire, check the sidewall for hairline cracks. Then check the tread to be sure that it is not worn. If there is not a problem with the age of the tire, and it is free from sidewall cracks and tread wear, a used tire should be just as good as a new one.
Benefits of buying used
Buying a used tire can save you more than half the cost of purchasing a comparable new tire. Buying a used tire is also good for the environment, since you're keeping the tire out of the landfill.
An Atlanta-area mechanic can provide an inspection and give you professional advice on choosing the best tires for your vehicle.