Are cheap part-worn tyres worth the risk?

Tyres are expensive. You can spend over £900 a corner on some cars, and even your Golf R’s and M135i’s will set you back over £120 a corner for good rubber.

But that’s the price you pay for quality, isn’t it? After all, tyres are the only contact our cars have with the road. So it’s worth it.

But not everybody thinks so. Rather than pay a premium for brand new tyres, some folk buy cheap part-worn tyres often for half the price of new ones. There is in fact a huge market for cheap part-worn tyres in Europe, and in the UK alone this market is worth an estimated £500 million.

But are cheap part-worn tyres worth the risk?

Advocates of part-worn tyres have the same argument in their defence, and it goes a little something like this, “When you buy a used car, it comes with part-worn tyres. And when you buy a used car, do you throw away those used tyres straight away? No, you don’t. You get as much out of them as you can before you even consider replacing them.”

This is a fair point – we get it. But, given the choice, we reckon that owners of those used cars would replace those tyres if they knew them to be dangerous. The trouble is, it’s very difficult to assess how dangerous cheap part-worn tyres are. Their history is always shrouded in mystery. You just don’t know what they have been through on the road. So the risk with cheap part-worn tyres is that while they may look fine, they could in fact be anything but.

In our opinion, cheap part-worn tyres are good for one thing; shredding on a track. They should be nowhere near a road car not just for your safety, but for the safety of others too.

Part-worn tyres and the law

Under The Motor Vehicle Tyres (Safety) Regulations 1994, part of the Consumer Protection Act, selling cheap part-worn tyres that do not meet certain regulations is an offence. This Act stipulates that tyres must have no cuts, bulges or lumps. Tyres must also have no plies or cords exposed. Tyres that have not been retreated must also have a ‘PART-WORN’ mark permanently displayed 4mm high. Tyres must still have their original grooves with a tread depth of 2mm across the breadth of the tread. All part-worn tyres must pass an inflation test prior to sale. Full details of part-worn tyres and the law can be found here.

As you can see, the sale of part-worn tyres is heavily regulated. And the reason for this is because cheap part-worn tyres can be incredibly dangerous. But, the regulations in force to protect motorists from dodgy cheap part-worn tyres are in cases blatantly ignored by retailers.

Auto Express carried out an investigation into part-worn tyres in 2012, alongside campaign group TyreSafe, and their findings were shocking. Here’s one poignant section of this investigation; “TyreSafe bought a random sample of 50 part-worns – half sourced online, half from high street retailers in the Midlands – and then inspected them back at base. Independent tyre expert Ted Foreman – whose job it was to put them under the microscope – instantly told us all but one wasn’t even legal.” The investigation went on to conclude that the vast majority of cheap part-worn tyres do not comply with the law.

So what does this tell us? That buying part-worn tyres is a lottery. You just never know if the tyres you are buying are safe for the road. And that’s a good enough reason for us to never even consider fitting them to any of our vehicles.

Overall, we recommend you steer clear from cheap part-worns.