My greatest fears have come true when my inspection revealed a number of tires that looked great…until I looked inside. – former Michelin manager

Used tires have become a massive business in the US. Close to 3,000,000 of these are sold each year, which is roughly 10% of the entire US tire market. It’s not hard to believe that most people look at used tires for sale since they can be so expensive. But as with many things in life, what looks like a good deal can sometimes be a bad deal in disguise.

Back in the 90s, a former manager for Michelin wanted to inspect tires for sale near him. He did so and his results can be summed up in one of his quotes:

“My greatest fears have come true when my inspection revealed a number of tires that looked great…until I looked inside.”

Tires are your life and you shouldn’t skimp out on your life.

14 Real Life Horror Stories Caused By Used Tires

Ditch or Cop, Your Choice

A young man was driving home after having a fun-filled day at the amusement park. His tires were quite bad and he was aware of this. As he was coming to a bend, he turned a bit too hard, opting to breeze past a stop sign. It turned out there was a policeman right on the spot and he was gunning straight for him. There were just two options; hit the cop or go for the ditch. Fortunately, he managed to get the car back on the road and all went well. Things could have gone worse as his friend was also in the front seat.

Used Can Be Fatal

The nasty results of fitting used tires came glaring in the eye of a truck driver from Sacramento. The man was driving down a street when he suffered a flat tire. This caused the truck to veer off the road, clambering over the island separating the lanes. As it straddled the opposite lane, the lorry collided head-on with an oncoming SUV. While the occupants survived, the truck driver unfortunately lost his life.

Blowout Damages Car

A driver experienced a tire explosion, having used the set of tires for just over 2 years. The blowout was so extensive it resulted in the car’s hood and underside being damaged. The eventual result was that the driver had to get his vehicle towed. While there’s a chance that the tire manufacturer will owner its warranty, the biggest conundrum is who becomes liable for the damage to the car.

Cheap Can Be Expensive

A young lady, working on a tight budget, decided to purchase a set of car tires from a used tire shop. The transaction the parties agreed to was that the tires would be sold ‘’as is.’’ Three weeks down the line, the lady was involved in an accident, as a result of the under-performing tires. The car was damaged with costs coming up to about $3,600. The irony is that she had bought the set of tires for $250. It turns out the tires were in effect over ten years old.

Used Tires Can Be Deadly

As an SUV was driving along the freeway, one of its tires’ tread separated and led to the vehicle crashing. A mother and her two daughters perished in the process, while other injured parties were rushed off to hospital. It was found, post-investigation, that the tire to blame was rather old and could have been bought used. A local dealer commented on the incident mentioning that there are cheap options that are much better than buying used tires.

Blowout To Pileup

Driving at high speeds in densely populated areas is never a great idea. A man doing exactly that found out the hard way how things can go wrong. The speeding driver had been weaving through traffic before his tire burst, forcing his vehicle to crash into 8 cars before coming to a grinding halt. It was confirmed that the front left tire blew, causing the horrible crash that ensued. Fortunately no lives were lost.

Russian Roulette with Worn Tires

A 19 year old lady’s worst fears became a reality when the SUV she was driving experienced a tire blowout. The vehicle’s left rear tire exploded, causing the vehicle to twist out of control before hitting the outer railing on the freeway. In the process of profusely spinning across the highway, the driver was tossed out of the vehicle as she was not wearing a seatbelt. Though in a critical condition, the girl was lucid and able to communicate.

Slip ‘N’ Slide

One female driver was unfortunate to go through the nightmare of having one’s tires hydroplane in stormy weather. There was a horrible storm, but traffic was moving at a steady pace. The driver wisely kept to the speed limit. As she was nearing her journey’s end her tires made contact with a puddle of water. Suddenly, she failed to manouvre the vehicle, which wildly veered off, into other lanes. The wild fiasco ensued for some moments before she finally regained control. As luck would have it, no one was injured in the accident.

Stuck On You

An off-road enthusiast made the mistake of taking his car to the challenging outdoors without fitting the appropriate tires. They went driving up the mountains hoping to catch some off-road action. As it turned out, the area that there were driving in was quite popular with many off-road drivers. This had resulted in the paths becoming rather degraded and eroded over the years. As one would have guessed, the car ended up getting stuck. The driver and his fellow motorist friend tried to get the car out with the aid of other vehicles, equipped with winches and tow straps. The fact, however, that the vehicle was stuck right next to a turn in the road meant that they could not tow it as effectively as they would have wanted to. Eventually he had to resort to calling a towing company to assist him. This was to no avail as the tow truck was refused entry into the woodlands, with the ranger fearing that it would cause marked environmental damage. Long story short, 15 years later and the car is still firmly stuck where they left it.

Icy State Of Affairs

Norway, Sweden and other Nordic countries were recently plagued by a terrible snowstorm. Things got so bad that trucks without the requisite snow tires were denied access into Norway at the Swedish border. While this deterrent policy was well-placed, the trucks already in the country were not exempt from the harsh driving conditions. Drivers found it difficult to keep control of their trucks, slipping and veering off the roads and main highways. This was particularly true for those trucks that were not fitted with winter tires and snow chains suited for this type of weather.

A Question Of Negligence

A case of being in the wrong place, at the wrong time resulted in a man losing his life in Bristol. A driver of a compact sedan caused the ill-fated incident, due to a combination of worn tires and an icy road. A fellow motorist had been driving and then got stuck in the snow-covered road. The stuck driver’s husband came over to assist his wife. At the very moment, compact sedan that was driving downhill towards the stuck car, started sliding and lost control. It struck the husband who was then tossed on to the hood and over the vehicle. The unfortunate man was whisked away to the ER where he then passed on. The driver at fault was charged with negligent homicide with a vehicle, in light of the incident.

Licensed Drift

A teenage driver decided to take his car head to head with his brother’s vehicle on some deserted roads close to their neighbourhood. The byways they chose were quite strewn with curves and some sharp hairpin bends. Readying himself for imminent victory, the boy turned off his traction control and clenched his nerves. The race was on. He made short work of the first curve, drifting perfectly through the turn. As he went into the second corner, disaster struck. The vehicle lost traction missing the convex of the turn. The driver slipped off the road, and the car rolled over several times. The end result was that the vehicle was a write-off. The driver was lucky to walk away with just a broken wrist. Uncanny that this accident happened just 11 days after the driver had gotten his license.

Tires Make The Difference

After a terrible winter storm, a driver decided to drive through the deep snow to get home. Confident in the capability of his vehicle, he figured with a combination of concentration and skill, he would be fine. As he drove along the road, there were no snow ploughs in sight and visibility was terrible. On the way, the driver came across a truck that had jack-knifed, which then got hit by another truck. Next was a sedan that spun out of control, nearly taking his car out and a number of other unlucky motorists. A journey that would have normally taken him 9 hours ended up being a 16 hour drive. Thanks to a good set of tires, he made it in one piece.

Unauthorized Blowout

A burst tire caused a vehicle to lose control and plough off-road, injuring two people. The accident happened as the car was driving down a highway. The occupants of the car were two females who suffered minor wounds in the process. One of them was flung out of the vehicle. The fact that the driver was unlicensed also didn’t help matters. Due to the accident, the entire highway had to be closed for a short time, and was later reopened to the public.

Here’s Exactly Why Used Tires Are Unsafe

I know, I know. It’s really tempting to buy a used tire rather than a new one. I mean it’s cheaper. Hell it’s even eco-friendly!

You gotta save every penny you can these days, and having to replace a tire can be unexpected and pricey. And it’s certainly not getting cheaper. I suppose this reflects the price spike of petrol based materials.

And this is how most people get the idea “Hey, I can save myself a shitload of money by buying a used tire”.

But is this really a valid option of saving money? I’d say “Nope”.

Here’s the problem the way I see it:

  • There aren’t any legal standards when it comes to these tires
  • The process of collecting tires that have been used, inspecting them and putting them back in circulation is a wild west type of thing
  • Some tire sellers are considered experts who go to great lengths to make sure their tires are safe. The other 99% of sellers are not…
Bald Used Tires

Image source: Imgur

When you’re looking at a used tire, think about every place it’s been to and every situation it’s been in. Have you come up with at least 5 different situations that make you cringe? Well that might be just your imagination since the tire was on a car used by the owner’s 90 year old granny who only goes to the supermarket every few days driving under the speed limit. Or the owner did a burnout every week for the past couple of months.

The point is, you have no way of verifying the history of those tires.

This tire could have been used overloaded, underinflated, or at high speeds. Pick any of these 3 factors and you have a tire that has been damaged. Even worse, you have a tire that has damage you can’t see. In short, the used tire could be unsafe and you would have no way of knowing.

Now what are the chances that this is actually the case?

No one knows. And that’s why you should be careful. Furthermore, tires will seriously degrade over time. Even if the tire has been an unused spare tire for all its life, it could still be unsafe just due to the fact that it’s been sitting there for years.

Never risk getting a tire with unknown history. Unless you’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel, consider buying new tires and check the DOT codes to make sure they’re no more than a year old.

“But I though people buy and sell used tires all the time?”

Yeah, some people do. Be it dealers or guys like you and me selling them online. But it’s their risk. And a serious one at that. That’s like buying a cheap Ferrari from an online add with no pictures or verifiable history. Sure you “might” get a sweet deal but odds are you’re getting a lemon.

New tires are registered on the buyer’s name for an instant notification in the event of a recall. This is a link that doesn’t exist if you buy a used tire. You have no way of knowing if the tire was ever part of a recall.

Usually I get the following question from friends: “Well if I just bought a used car, I’d get tires that were already used along with it. So why not just buy the tires?”

Used Car Ads With No Image Be Like...

While that’s a valid point, the situation is a bit different. You know the vehicle that these tires are on, you know it’s condition, mileage and preferably, you can look into the cars maintenance history. That’s hell of a lot more information to base your decision on than just looking at a single tire without any verifiable context.

If the car is in poor condition, chances are the tires are too and vice-versa.

Also, you can always use the “these tires need to be replaced” argument for haggling on a used car.

Best Cheap Alternatives to Used Tires

Amazon offers some amazing deals on new tires. Furthermore, when you join Amazon Prime (which is super-affordable), you may be eligible for free shipping on most Amazon purchases.

Since Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer, it offers an incredible selection of tires, including ones from Goodyear, Westlake, Pirelli, Milestar and many other world-renowned tire manufacturers.Amazon Has Parts for ALL Models

It’s possible to save a lot of money on new tires by shopping at Amazon. In fact, when I looked around, I found a tire which is brand-new and retails for just $40. There are plenty of cheaper styles to choose from, so you don’t really need to go for used tires which may be unsafe in order to save cash. Instead, you may take advantage of Amazon’s low prices and treat yourself to new tires which will positively impact safety, as well as performance.

Cheap Passenger Tires

Cheapest Option – Milestar MS932

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Coming up with the Milestar MS932, there was only one thing in mind. The manufacturer sought to supply a tire that would combine all-weather grip with refined comfort and responsive steering. The main market targeted here are drivers of sedans, sport coupes and crossover vehicles. As a sport tire, a striking tread pattern that is bound to attract many a motorist. Performance in dry driving conditions has been optimized by the implementation of rounded shoulder blocks. This also has a positive impact on the handling and cornering capabilities of the Milestar MS932. The result of all these considerations has been well received, especially given the affordability of the tire. There are a few downsides though. Top of the list is the rather compromised tread life. The price tag on the tires though, still make it a competitive choice.

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All Season – Falken Ziex ZE950

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The Falken Ziex ZE950 tires prove that when shopping for a new set of tires one needn’t sacrifice safety or performance. In coming up with the tires, Falken put in a wide array of innovation to make sure that they perform just as well, or even better than their higher priced rivals. Dynamic Range Technology has been integrated into the tire’s rubber amalgam, allowing it to retain high levels of traction in wet, dry driving conditions. Consideration has also been made for instances when one is driving on snowy surfaces, through Canyon Sipe Technology. By making use of serrated edges that run along the perimeter of the tire, grip, even when towing, is guaranteed. As is the case with many state-of-the art products, the Ziex ZE950s do have some shortfalls. Tires bursting and premature tread wear are all issues that many owners have complained about. In summation, the Falken Ziex ZE950s offer enough value and technology for a reasonable price.

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Winter – Firestone Winterforce

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Firestone has long established themselves as a world-class tire manufacturer and their foray into the budget tire segment aims the winter driving market. In this sense the tire has been made compatible with winter studs, even though they don’t supply it equipped with them. The product in question is the Firestone Winterforce, a tire made to provide optimal grip in wet, dry and snowy driving conditions. The compound used to manufacture the Winterforce tires is mated with an aggressive tread design to ensure optimized traction on wintry days. A wide network of sipes covering the surface of the tire allow for ‘biting edges’ that prevent slipping on icy roads. The only downside to the Firestone Winterforce tires are specifically made to be fitted as a set, they are quite a competitively priced product from a prominent brand.

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Performance – Toyo Tire Extensa

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It is quite exciting to see that Toyo tires have come up with an affordable product aimed at racing enthusiasts. The Japanese manufacturers has their sights squarely aimed at drivers of sport coupes and souped up sedans with the introduction of the Toyo Tire Extensas. One feature that sets these tires apart is that they come with a non-directional tread design. This will be good news for anyone who rotates their tires across the wheels. Though a bit taxing, the benefits can be immense, specifically when it comes to even tread wear. A 4-channel groove pattern has also been incorporated into the tire’s design. This facilitates for effective water removal thus reducing the chances of hydroplaning in wet weather. Their Toyo Tire Extensas do fail to deliver in terms of durability. This makes them particularly relevant to drivers who value performance over longevity.

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Off-road – Milestar Patagonia A/T

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Contrary to most passenger off-road options, the Milestar Patagonia A/T tires provide a decent level of performance at a very reasonable price, for the category. They have a well thought out tread layout that features interlocking sipes, for increased traction across a variety of terrains. As is the case with many of their contenders, the Milestar Patagonia A/Ts are adorned with an appealing white lettering over the sidewall. This completes the off-road look, yielding a tire that is both attractive and capable. Their ease of installation and maintenance allow even the novice to enjoy the great outdoors for a nominal price.

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Cheap Light Truck / SUV

Cheapest Option – Michelin Defender LTX A/S

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When it comes to SUVs and light trucks, the Michelin Defender LTX A/S tires are undoubtedly one of the best sets out there. The tire features a purpose-designed tread pattern that allows for all-terrain traction that rivals higher priced competitors. As with other Michelin tires, the LTX A/S tire comes with a robust contact patch as standard. This allows for uniform tread degeneration over time. The sipes are also set deep such that the tire retains its qualities for the duration of its life. The one Achille’s heel of the tire is the vulnerability in its sidewall. Complaints of sidewall cracking and dry rot have been a stain in an otherwise perfect track record.

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All Season – Goodyear Wrangler

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The name Goodyear alone, conjures up sentiments of quality and uncompromising performance. This is true for the Goodyear Wrangler tires. They are built with a unique tread design that makes for solid performance and grip all year round. A broad tread block is also built into the structure of the tire, facilitating for a more responsive ride. As has been a running theme with Goodyear, the Wranglers are made in such a way that they increase fuel economy. The tires, however, do not seem to maintain their characteristics for the duration of their life. Regardless, their eco-centred approach, coupled with a competitive pricing strategy make them hard to resist.

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Winter – Cooper Discoverer M+S

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Driving in the snow while carrying heavy loads requires more than just skill, one needs a tire that is cut out for the job. Such is the case with the Cooper Discoverer M+S tires. These affordable tires are enhanced with ‘’Snow Groove’’ technology that gives jagged edges, allowing for optimized traction on icy roads.

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Performance – General Grabber HTS

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When on the market for a tire that won’t break the bank but will give best performance, one needn’t look any further than the General Grabber HTS tires. Made to fit SUVs, light trucks and crossovers, they are equipped with Stabilink bars that reinforce the overall structure of the tire. The tire also a unique Eco-ride compound that makes it a frugal option. The result is great performance merged with economy.

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Off-road – Hankook DynaPro ATM RF10

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The Hankook Dynapro tires present an attractive yet capable off-road option for SUVs. They have a special spiral-wound tread design that enhances the aggressive look. A double groove pattern complements the tire’s longevity and optimizes wet traction. The tread design features staggered notches that improve handling and cornering as well.  One needn’t think twice about the Dynapro tires for an affordable off-road option.

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If You Do Decide On Used Tires…

Tread Depth & Wear

Make sure to examine the tread surface (all of it) for uneven wear. If you catch a glimpse of any part of the cords (braided steel), the tire can be scraped.

You should also check the depth of the tread on each tire. For any common sized tire, it should have a depth of no less than 6/32 inch. If it’s a 13 or 14 inch tire, the minimum should be 4/32 inch.

The easiest method of testing tread depth is called a penny test. Take out a penny and put it into the tread. If you can the Lincoln’s head (all of it), it’s a sure sign the tread has worn out and that you should look for another tire.


Generally speaking, if the tire is more than 6 years old, you should avoid it altogether. You can check this easily by looking at the Tire Identification Number. You should find the letters “DOT” followed by some numbers. The first two numbers represent the place where they were manufactured. Other four stand for the date – two digits for the week, followed by two digits for the year.

The way tires look on the outside can be deceiving. Unlike Hellen Mirren, tires don’t age gracefully. At least no on the inside.

Also, look for signs of dry rot. Specifically, cracks in between the treads or on the sidewall.

Check for Liner Damage

The inside of the tire should also be examined. If you find any exposed dangling cords or signs of other damage to the inner liner, you should avoid the tire.

Punctures and Repairs

While tires that were properly repaired are safe to use, you should look for signs of a hack job. Don’t even consider a tire that contains large punctures.

Belt Separation

If the tire is bumped too hard, it can often result in the steel belts separating from the rubber itself. To test if this, gently go over the tread and the sidewall. You’re looking for any bumps, or other kinds of imperfections that may point to belt separation.

Bead Appearance

Avoid tires that have a bead with missing pieces. (this will prevent it from sealing properly)