A study of drivers’ attitudes on buying tyres found that one in five had bought part-worn tyres in the past and more than one in 10 – around four million – intended to do so again, despite warnings about their safety.
James Fairclough from AA Cars, which carried out the research, said that many drivers opting for second-hand tyres were being misled by “myths and fallacies” about their safety and value.
Fairclough said: “Despite some really effective campaigns from the likes of TyreSafe warning consumers about the dangers of secondhand tyres in recent years, it’s clear that a number of prevailing myths about part-worns continue to underpin their sales.
“The safety case for buying new over used tyres has been well-documented but it’s important that drivers understand the argument that part-worns offer better value for money is a fallacy too.
“Secondhand tyres might boast cheaper price points than new ones, but the tread left on these tyres is typically materially less, meaning you’ll be looking for yet more replacements in no time at all.”
According to the AA Cars survey, a third of drivers believe that second-hand tyres offer better value than new ones. However, while a new tyre has up to 8mm of tread, second-hand ones can have as little as 2mm – just 0.4mm above the legal limit and the point at which most experts recommend you replace your tyres.
One in five also believed that most part-worn tyres sold in the UK complied with legal requirements but a Tyresafe campaign last year found that 99 per cent of second-hand tyre retailers were breaking the law.
And a small but worrying seven per cent thought part-worns were as safe as new tyres.
Tyres that don’t meet the legal standard are both dangerous – a lack of grip makes steering and stopping harder – and potentially costly. The penalty for driving with a non-compliant tyre is £2,500 and three penalty points per tyre, meaning a car with four illegal tyres could cost you £10,000 and your licence.
Fairclough also warned that drivers could unwittingly end up with older tyres fitted by unscrupulous car dealers.
“Car buyers should be mindful that, in the past, nearly-new and used cars have been found to have been fitted with much older tyres,” he said.
“A look at the dot code on the sidewall of the tyre can give you an indication of how old the tyres are – the last four digits of this code can tell you, respectively, what week and year the tyre was created.
Simple safety checks
Fairclough adds: “Since it’s often hard to discern whether tyres are up to scratch when you head down to the forecourt, a few simple checks can put your mind at ease when buying your next car; the ‘20p test’ will help to establish – at a glance – the depth of tread left on the tyres; it’s also worth taking a pressure gauge, or asking for a gauge at the forecourt, to see if the car’s tyres are correctly inflated.
“If you see any bumps or bulges in the sidewall of the tyre, it’s important that you don’t drive away from the dealer, as these aren’t roadworthy and can be very dangerous to drive on. While some of these tyre deformities can be spotted straightaway, for extra peace of mind it might be worth considering a pre-sale vehicle inspection since not all issues are immediately apparent.”