When money is tight, it’s tempting to buy expensive items used. Sometimes that is really smart and sometimes that can be a very dangerous and expensive choice in the long run. Here are a few tips to help you make a smart buying decision:

When used tires save you money:

  • AGE: When they are still within 5-6 years old. There should be a 4-digit mark on the sidewall, after “DOT” indicating age. The first two numbers are the week it was manufactured, and the second two are the year. So 2519 would mean that tire was made on the 25th week fo 2019. After 6 years, the rubber will breakdown and lose its resilience, regardless of wear on the tread. Even on tires that are only a few years old, be sure the look for cracks and dryness.
  • STORAGE: When you can see they were stored well. Tires that are stored in a place that gets very cold or very hot will degrade more quickly on the road than tires that had better climate controls. Look for tires that have been in a sealed garage (vs. a carport or outside). On a shelf is better than on the floor.
  • TREAD: When you can see that the tread is greater than 2/32″. The U.S. Department of Transportation recommends replacing tires when they reach 2/32”, and many states legally require tires to be replaced at this depth. Nevada requires snow tires to have at least 3/32″ of tread to travel our treacherous roads. Penny test: take a penny, turn it upside down: if you see all of Abe Lincoln’s head, that tire is too worn out.
  • WEAR: When the tread wear shows that they wear evenly. If the tire tread seems uneven, then the tire is not safe. Manufacturers recommend rotating tires every six months to ensure even wear and you get a reliable grip. If one side is uneven, you could slip on turns, or expose the cords inside the tire. Over and under-inflation will show on the sidewalls as cracks or bulges.
  • SEASONAL: If the tires are for low-use or seasonal vehicles. If you’re looking for snow tires, a new set could run over $1000. You might find someone on RubyWantAds.com selling high-quality snow tires that they had for a car they’ve sold. Ask about age, because the rubber will break down over time, and take a good look at storage and tread.
  • ACCIDENTS: Cars that have been totaled in accidents will often have perfectly good tires on an otherwise damaged vehicle. Talk with your local scrapyard about vehicles similar to yours that have come in recently. They might make you a great deal!
  • NO REPAIRS: When the tire doesn’t show any improper repairs. Not all repairs work well. They might look OK, but create problems for you down the road. If the seller mentions repairs, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.

Downsides to buying used tires:

  • Driving at excessive speeds can wear a tire quickly from the inside out. When you ask the seller about his tires, get a sense of his driving style. If you think they drive with a lead-foot, the damage to that tire might not be obvious by looking at the tread. Fast speeds create a lot of heat and friction that can undermine the tire structure.
  • You might not know about safety recalls from the manufacturer. All new tires are registered to the new owner, but that information doesn’t always pass to the second owner. Recalls often develop after a few years when owners report problems. Check the make and model year of the tires you’re considering through the US Tire Manufacturer’s Association Tire Recall Database. If they are on the database, consider another option.
  • If the car was neglected, the tires probably were too. If you aren’t comfortable with the seller and the setting those tires have been in, trust your gut and look for others.
  • The tire warranty typically will not transfer so maintaining them could cost you a little every six months or so.


  • You could reduce the impact of the tires on the environment. If you can get some use out of them, then there is less to throw in the landfill.
  • The tires could be vastly less expensive. Depending on what you’re looking for, you could save $500-1500 on a set of used tires.

Good luck and happy shopping!

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