Buying Part Worn Tyres: Safety Guide

Author Name – Wendy Riach

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There are a lot of drivers who choose to buy part-worn tyres and they say the main reason for doing this, is to save money, but buying part-worn tyres is often a false economy as many are sold with low tyre tread depths and the cost per millimetre of tread may be more expensive than purchasing a new tyre.

New tyres in the UK are sold with 8mm of tread depth and the minimum legal tread depth is 1.6mm. Many part-worn tyres have 3mm or below tread depths, so will not last a long time before they need changing again.

Most tyre manufacturers recommend changing tyres at 3mm, as braking performance is affected as the tread starts to reach the minimum tread depth.

part worn tyres

Before deciding whether to buy a part-worn tyre, drivers should ask themselves this very important question “Why has the tyre been removed from a vehicle?”

What Makes Part-Worn Tyres Unsafe?

At National Tyres and Autocare we strongly advise against buying part-worn tyres, not because we would like to sell you a tyre, but because of the unequivocal data available to us from TyreSafe a UK charity dedicated to promoting the importance of regular tyre maintenance and the hidden dangers of part worn tyres.

Here is what makes part-worn tyres unsafe:

Tyres are not removed from a vehicle for no reason, they are usually removed because the tread depth is getting very low, the rubber has deteriorated or the tyre has suffered irreparable damage or puncture.

Sadly, some of the irreparable tyres find their way to non-reputable tyre dealers who carry out unsafe repairs and then they sell these on to unsuspecting customers as part-worn tyres. Most of the repairs will not be visible to a customer and could be very dangerous.

Some part-worn tyre dealers paint the old tyres to disguise cracks and conceal repairs, so be sure to thoroughly check a part-worn tyre before considering buying.

Before a part-worn tyre can be sold legally it must be fully inspected and comply to the law set out in the Motor Vehicle Tyres (Safety) Regulations 1994 (reg.7.) and must be stamped with the relevant ‘E’ marking and Part Worn marking in legibly letters.

Most part-worn tyres sold are not stamped in accordance with the regulations and it’s likely that if they haven’t been stamped, then they haven’t been inspected properly internally and externally and are highly unlikely to have been inflation-tested prior to being sold.

A recent survey carried out by TyreSafe of 268 part-worn tyre dealers produced some shocking stats:

  • 94% of the part-worn tyres on sale were being sold illegally
  • 63% of the tyres being sold illegally were unsafe and not fit to return to the road
  • 22% were 10 years or older – with one tyre being 29 years old!
  • 18% were incorrectly repaired
  • 159 people are killed or seriously injured each year (average data) in tyre-related accidents

Watch this video if you are thinking about buying part-worn tyres.

Just because the tyre looks like it has sufficient tread depth, it doesn’t make the tyre safe.

Tyres that have been underinflated or overinflated can look ok from the outside but can have internal damage.

Puncture repairs are only permitted in the red T area as per British Standard BS AU 159 guidance. Anything outside of this area is not repairable for safety reasons.

puncture repair

So, with this data, would you still buy a part-worn tyre? 

What to Look for in Part Worn Tyres?

If you do decide to purchase a part-worn tyre, here are things to look out for:

Part worn tyre marking

Check the tyre has an ‘E’ and Part Worn marking, if it doesn’t then it hasn't been fully inspected.

Tread Depth

Check the tyre has sufficient tread depth across the full width of the tyre, either with a tread depth gauge or you can use a 20p coin. Insert the 20p coin into the grooves in the tread at various points around the circumference and across the full width of the tyre, if the outer edge of the 20p coin is hidden the tread depth is legal, if the outer edge of the 20p coin is visible the tread depth is illegal.

If the tread depth is close to the minimum legal limit, there is absolutely no point in buying the tyre.

Check the tyre surface

Check the tyre doesn’t have any splits or cuts in the rubber.

Check the tyre doesn’t have signs of rubber deterioration, or cracking between the treads and on the sidewall.

Run your hand over the surface of the tyre to check for any bumps or irregularities.

Check the tyre sidewall

Check the tyre doesn’t have cracks on the sidewall or visible damage. Hitting potholes and kerbs can cause external and internal damage.

Exposed cords

Check the tyre doesn’t have any exposed plies or cords, which can be a sign that the tyre has been overused.

It could also be a sign that the tyre has been used on a vehicle that had a wheel alignment issue or was running with incorrect tyre pressures.

Do not purchase any tyre that has exposed cords, as this would be illegal.

Inflation Test

This is a difficult one for a customer to check, but all part-worn tyres should have been inflation tested.


Check the tyre doesn’t have any objects sticking through the tread externally and internally.

Check that any punctures have been repaired safely and in the permitted safe area. Punctures should be repaired from the inside with a patch, if you only see a plug then the puncture has not been repaired fully and could easily puncture again.

Avoid tyres that have multiple puncture repairs.

Tyres rated ‘V’ and above can only have one puncture repair in the lifetime of the tyre.

If a puncture is over 6mm in diameter, this would be deemed too big for a safe repair, whether the puncture is in the safe area or not.

Tyre Age

Check the age of the tyre, this can be found on the tyre’s sidewall.

This is called the DOT code and indicates the age of the tyre, for example; 1820, which means the tyre was made in the 18th week of 2020.

As tyres age, the tread and sidewall can start to crack, especially if left on a vehicle that has been stationary for long periods. They can also deteriorate when exposed to UV light.

The general consensus among tyre safety experts and tyre manufacturers is that tyres will need changing every 20,000 miles or between 5-6 years, depending on your driving style and tyre maintenance routine.

Do not buy any tyres that show rubber deterioration.

Related: How Long Can Tyres Last?


What are the risks of dangerous tyres?

Every year, dangerous tyres lead to around 5,000 convictions, 900 casualties, and 160 deaths or serious injuries. Not only that, but illegal tyres can actually end up costing you more than the price of a new set: you could face fines of up to £2500 and 3 points on your licence per illegal tyre, not to mention that if you're found to have illegal tyres in an accident, it can invalidate your insurance.

A free tyre check from National can make sure your four wheels are ready for the road. Book in now to stay safe on your journeys.

Book a Free Tyre Check

Want to know more about looking after your tyres? Check out our online tyre safety hub.



Tyres are arguably one of the most important safety features on your vehicle and they need to be in good condition to help keep yourself and your family and friends safe on the road.

Sadly there are far too many part-worn tyre dealers illegally selling dangerous part-worn tyres to unsuspecting customers. Part-worn tyres are part safe and you can never be sure what the reason is for them being removed from a vehicle. To keep everyone safe, including other road users please only purchase new tyres for your vehicle from a reputable tyre dealer.

We stock a large range of budget, mid-range and premium tyres in all our National Tyres and Autocare branches and they are also available to pre-order online.

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