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Sell Used Tires If You Must, Just Know What You Don't Know

August 09, 2010
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I have never been a fan of dealers selling used tires. You’re not in the garage business, after all, and selling used only diminishes the value of the new products you rely on for long-term profitability.

But I get it. Certain consumers can only do so much – especially now. A “good” used tire may be in better shape than the rubber they are riding on. A number of you feel expert enough to separate the good from the questionable. Many more simply don’t see a problem, and “any sale is a good sale.”

I get it.

Hawking used tires is nothing new, and certainly not just an all-American phenomenon. It’s been going on for decades, here and abroad.

But a recent report by TyreSafe, a quasi-independent consumer education body (don’t you wish we had one of those?) in the U.K., may shed some new light on the issue.

Proving the acorn-tree thing can work in reverse, drivers in the U.K. are just as bad about tire care as U.S. drivers. Roads and weather are pretty similar. U.K. vehicles tend to be a bit smaller – no one there rolls out in a Hummer 5 Mega-Monster over there – and, therefore, tires are a tad smaller overall.

Still, consumers on both shores see nothing wrong with buying used.

In the U.S., used tires are a featured attraction at countless yard sales and on Craigslist and eBay and the local classifieds. Used cars come with used tires, right? There is, therefore, an expectation that a used tire is A-OK provided there is some tread left and no visible damage.

TyreSafe’s findings, though, should serve as a warning that not all is A-OK when it comes to part-worn tires.

Birmingham, England, officials investigated the quality of used tires sold by local firms. In all, the investigators bought and checked nearly 200 tires, and found that nine out of 10 failed to meet minimum legal standards. Some 30% had physical defects (embedded nails, exposed cords, excessive wear). Some had required markings buffed off, and most failed to carry a mark identifying the tire as being used. One in particular was all of 17 years old.

And these were tires sold by tire shops – not at yard sales – by tire experts, I suspect, who pride themselves on having a keen eye for these kinds of things. Like American dealers.
Oh, it gets worse. TyreSafe did a deeper examination of six of the tires, using X-ray equipment to look for internal damage. All six showed clear signs of impact damage, exhibiting “unstable stress points” or “fatigue in components” that increase the likelihood of a blowout.

As TyreSafe noted, these highly dangerous defects would not be visible under normal inspections that used tires should undergo before going on sale.

“The results from the Birmingham investigation are extremely worrying and confirm our worst fears about part-worn tires,” said TyreSafe chairman Stuart Jackson.

“Although guidelines do exist about the condition of tires being sold as part-worns, they are clearly not being adhered to by all traders. The types of faults found are extremely dangerous and, if fitted to a vehicle, could have caused serious accident and injury.”

Full disclosure: TyreSafe is partly funded by donations from tiremakers, but acts independently in its consumer education efforts. Also, the U.K. has strict laws regarding used tires, which must meet certain standards and be permanently marked as being sold as part-worn.

Back on these shores, here are some stats you can examine under your in-shop shearography machine, courtesy of the RMA’s 2010 Tire Pressure Survey:

• Of 6,300 vehicles checked, only 17% had four properly inflated tires.
• 55% had at least one underinflated tire.
• 15% had at least one tire down by at least 8 psi
• 20% had at least one tire underinflated by 6 psi.
• 31% were underinflated by at least 4 psi.

As used tires go, eight in 10 you might sell have been run underinflated.

How long were these tires run underinflated? How many potholes and curbs did they meet? What debris did they roll over? How many panic stops did they endure? How many times have they been mounted/dismounted?

Who knows? You don’t, and no one’s eyeballs are that good.

Look, to sell or not to sell used is your decision, and yours alone. But don’t think that in “sue-first” America that you’re alone; if one of your used tires fails, there is nothing to insulate you from a court judgment – and nothing to prevent that tire’s maker from joining you in court.

Our industry much prefers suggestion to regulation. And when it comes to used tires, that’s exactly what we have.

If you want to sell used tires, that’s fine. Some will even praise your efforts. Just know what you don’t know, and understand that every used tire you sell is another round of Lawsuit Roulette.

Because you just don’t know.
Submit a Comment   Legacy Comments
avatar   The Beef from So Cal   star   10/12/2010   12:56 PM

I would rather lose a used tire sale and not sell that used tire to a retail client than risk the life of that retail client or their family. I don't care how good you or your tire busters claim they are in terms of inspecting used tires. The reward isn't worth the risk. Just sell your takeoffs and used tires to other smaller shops, make a quick buck and save yourself the liability and worry. Let those little used tire shops take the risk.

avatar   Red   star   9/13/2010   4:37 PM

John, I respect your opinions also. But some of these people that "can't afford tires" I'd be willing to bet have satellite TV, LCD TVs, PS3s, and a car they cannot really afford. If people didn't have the 'now mentality' or always want to 'keep up with the joneses', maybe they'd be able to afford the more practical things when needed. I mostly blame the government for constantly enacting more and more crazy tax schemes eroding America's consumer purchasing power. But that is another story, we can thank Woodrow Wilson, FDR, and Nixon for our current situation.

avatar   John   star   9/12/2010   6:29 PM

Red, you miss the point on the "starving children" comment. What your, and everyone else's mother meant, was "waste not, want not". It really had nothing to do with current economic conditions, taxes, tariffs, etc.

But I agree with you, we can't tax ourselves into prosperity. I wonder how many more people could afford new tires without Brother Obama's "Chinese tariff", which we all know served to raise ALL tire prices.

But at the end of the day, is the parent(s) of a struggling family better off going to work on a used tire, or not going at all. Believe me it comes down to this for some.

I respect your opinion, regardless.


avatar   Red   star   9/8/2010   9:38 AM

John, I never said you should follow verbatim what I've said. I've said myself that I'd sell take offs, earlier on this very page. I'm not willing to risk my life or career over an improperly inspected used tire. Some people may be struggling yes, but it is still a compromise to purchase used tires. Afterall it is the only part of your vehicle that touchs the road. So, it should be were you spend for the newest and/or best product availible.

As far as the 'starving children' comment? Well, see the real issue in this country is taxes. There are local, state, and federal taxes and tariffs on tires. Not only that, but sometimes there is multiple federal, state or local taxes on tires. EPA, DOT, US Customs, Local EPA taxes, State Excise taxes. By the time people buy a product it is forceably marked up several hundred percent just because of taxes. Reduce taxes, increase expendable income, decrease joblessness, increase new tire sales (and everything else).

avatar   John   star   9/3/2010   9:30 PM


I don't believe the average customer who CAN afford new tires will spring for new ones just because a tire is punctured. Much less the ones that couldn't afford them in the first place.

I pulled four tires off a late model car just the other day. Two were almost (almost) indistinguishable from new tires. (I told the customer she really only needed two, but she wanted a set). With people out of work, families struggling to make ends meet, I cannot in good conscience condemn these tires to the scrap pile. It's almost like throwing good food out (remember your mother telling you about starving children?).

avatar   Red   star   9/3/2010   5:33 PM

Brian, good luck if you want to risk everything and profit off being a total and unecessary risk for consumers. I would suggest consumer to stay away from buying used tires.

avatar   Red   star   9/3/2010   10:31 AM

Don't sell used tires, they are a liability. You aren't properly servicing your customers by doing so. You leave yourself and your shop up to much more liability by doing so. New tires give your customers something used tires never will, a warranty!

The article above provides plenty of facts to support reasons why NOT to sell or even use used tires. I'm not at all sure why Brian Kingsley seeks to defame the article when it clearly shows verifiable information from any person with common sense.

So for the consumers that are reading this, don't get tricked by Brian Kingsley. Educate yourself, don't buy used tires and open yourself to liability. If you require to spend less on tires, open up your search to include any brand that correctly fits your original vehicle requirements. Remember even the cheapest new tires will last 5-10 times longer than anything you will find used, period.

If Brian Kingsley wants to continue to slam this article, the author, and reputable tire shops, that should show you the character of the tire shops that sell only used tires. And remember everyone, Brian Kingsley apparently has a x-ray machine to internally all of the used tires he takes in, or sells. Yea, I don't think I'd believe that at all...

avatar   Brian Kingsley Mr. Tire Shop .Com   star   9/3/2010   8:57 AM

The author of this original "advertisement" for his advertisers who pay to keep this publication alive is sitting back, sipping his coffee and laughing his butt of right now. Too funny. I'm serious. It is funny. He can't even get the facts of the piece correct. That alone is, well, again, too funny. That's not reporting. Don't get sucked into this trite argument thinking it's something that was "reported". It has no merit whatsoever. Of course you should sell used tires. Sell as many as you can because you'll make a lot of customers happy and you'll money. Everyone wins. Just make sure to take good care of your customer by making certain you've done everything in your power to make certain the tire is right for the car, inspected, etc. You can only do what you know to do to help them with what tools you've got. Just like any other profession. Your customer is your most valuable asset. This article's topic has zero merit. There was no "reporting" or research done (or very, very little) done, etc. If this article was written on paper and it was during "the old days", it would have quickly been torn to strips and hung in the outhouse. Sell away.

avatar   Red   star   9/3/2010   8:49 AM

John, while valid, it doesn't pose the same liability. And really, no repaired (patched or plugged) tire should be kept in service as it is. The casing has been damaged, punctured physically, which is much more likely to allow for the belt package to fatigue (moisture).

Selling used tires, and typically those shops that primarily do, have lower standards on what they use for tires. This article already points out that many of the purchased tires have physically obvious problems, severe wear, punctures, even steel belting showing through!

Do the nice and courteous thing for your customers, educate them on why new tires are the better choice, and stick to your guns. The consumer is not always right.

avatar   John   star   9/2/2010   9:09 PM

If a shop repairs a tire and reinstalls it, and it fails, doesn't this expose this shop to the same liability? Are we to stop repairing tires?

A new tire leaves a shop, is run under-inflated, is improperly repaired-is the shop any less liable than if it had sold a used tire?

avatar   Red   star   9/2/2010   12:48 PM

Brian, I though about the multiple comments you have made about 'how many lawsuits have there been over used and/or new tires?".

How many times have consumers come to a used tire shop and the shop deflect the blame to the tire manufacturer? How many of those lawsuits are legitimate? How many of those tires involved are even truly a warrantable condition failure?

avatar   Red   star   9/2/2010   11:57 AM

Brian, you can think those 'binding' legal waivers are going to save you in court all day long, but they won't. If someone is injured or killed as a result of used tires sold the liability falls on the user, and the shop that sold the tires.

You seem to like to repeatedly go over 'how many lawsuits have there been on used tires vs new tires?". I don't believe for a second that you actually researched the caselaw (nor your in-family attorney) to see exactly how much in terms of dollars have been litigated over tires (used or new). You'd have to go through all 50 states, and every case that involves any tire company to calculate it all.

I know you are in the business to sell used tires, and you want to protect your interests, seemingly at all costs. But educate yourself the risks of continuing to sell used tires, you are putting your shop on the line much more than those of us that sell new tires.

avatar   Brian Kingsley MrTireShop.Com &   star   9/2/2010   10:34 AM

Used tire demand is growing and will continue to grow until the recession ends. Sell responsibly, have the proper equipment to test, educate your crew, educate the consumer. Educate. Educate. Educate. And yes, there are in fact very binding legal waivers that can be signed by the consumer so, if there ever is a case of litigation (how many has there been now on used and new tires?), the person filing suit will likely be paying your attorney and all associated court fees. Not sure if I'm proud to say this or not but yes, I do have an attorney in the family. And for the record, if you were to research litigation re: Used vs. New tires, there have been untold millions spent more on new tire litigation than used. Fact. Again, does this mean we stop selling used cars or used anything? The author got what he wanted in regards to these posts - but I'm relatively certain he's like to see more contraversy. Why write an opinion like this if that is what the author was not looking for? That combined with how much Tire Review receives in ad revenue from tire manufacturers... well, let's just say I believe the author has a vested interest by staying close to the manufacturers - who don't want anyone to sell used tires. Have at it posters. You'll make the author's day. I make these comments with a spirited respect for allowing opinions to be heard - regardless of your own. This is America.

avatar   Red   star   9/1/2010   2:47 PM

Mike, the biggest problem of used tires is lack of warranty, guaranteed treadlife, inability to properly inspect every tire that comes off another vehicle. When using used tires, selling, and installing, the liability falls squarely on the shop offering the service. Could they be ok to use? Sure. Could they last several years? Sure. Could they also have been repaired, or suffered other types of damage? Sure, and is a guarantee. The tire over any sort of life can be rendered irrepairable. Worst of all many shops selling used tires may even be selling tires that have been recalled!

Like I'd said earlier, the only 'used' tires I be interested in selling is take-offs (maximum 250-500 miles). Even then, I really don't like to, and won't make it a point to offer anything used, at any level. It would only be a case if I came by a set from a car dealership, not from individual off the street.

And for those that think I'm being too particular? Well, then you can take the liabilities at your shop, not mine.

avatar   Mike   star   9/1/2010   12:41 PM

Thanks red for your answers and I was not trying to bait you but just trying to understand the logic behind what is a good tire and a bad tire. If they are good enough for me to drive on them then why are they not good enough for someone else to drive on them?

I am having a hard time since everyday wear and tear on the roads then when do you replace them if you do not see any physical damage? Also how often do you take them off and have them stress tested etc?



avatar   Red   star   9/1/2010   11:37 AM

Mike, I'll answer your questions directly.

1. A new tire becomes a used tire as soon as it is driven on. Just like how anything else that was new then becomes used. Even in 10-20 miles the tire is subject to heat, stress, impact, and other outside forces that can cause undue stress on tires.

I've replaced more than a few tires WITH LESS than 100 miles from all brands. It doesn't take much to understand that even in a short time, tires (or anything) can be subject to undue stress to cause failures.

2. This questions seems like a attempt to bait me, or the author into a argument. All I can say is if the tires are 60% left, and all still 'driveable' than keep driving on them. It would be your wish as the consumer to purchase new tires at this point. As far as used? I wouldn't sell them myself, not risking the liability.

3. Lawsuits to major companies always make headlines. I've not spent the time to search every piece of caselaw from across the country to estimate how many lawsuits have been filed against 'new tires'. Even then, you will have a hard time distinguishing the cases. Not to mention when the majority of these cases hit courtrooms it is a tire that is aged, worn, or otherwise used. I'd venture a guess though that you haven't researched this question either.

The bottom line is anyway you slice it, used tires are a risky business. Don't open yourself or your business up to something that could lead to problems a lot easier than selling new tires, even inexpensive private labels. Do your customers a favor and educate them at the benefits of buying new.

avatar   Mike   star   9/1/2010   10:13 AM

I would like the author and Red to answer some questions for everyone's benefit.

1. When does a new tire become a used tire?

2. If my tires have 10,000 miles on them and have 60% tread life left in them should I get rid of them or are they still usable?

3. How many lawsuits have there been over new tires( Firestone etc.)???

avatar   Red   star   8/31/2010   1:24 PM

Brian Kingsley, you are way off base to be attacking the author for any reason. Do you x-ray inspect your used tires, I'd guess that you don't. I'd venture a guess you don't inspect for internal stress failures. No documents are going to insulate you from litigation, but you will likely learn this the hard way.

The driving public is requesting them because they don't know any different, and you as the expert is supposed to be educating them in the reasons to buy a new tire. Are you really going to continue to play the sympathy card? Everyone wants to be able to make a living, but selling used tires is much more of a liability the new.

I can't believe that you are supposed to be a tire professional, conducting yourself in this fashion just shows the reasons why you sell used tires. It undercuts the quality of service you are giving your customers. Used tires should only be a last resort, only.

avatar   erica erickson   star   8/30/2010   6:56 PM

reading this article i thought to myself what the heck does air pressure have to do with used tires...i've been in this business for 40 years and air pressure is a problem across the board. it is up to the consumer to keep their

car truck or whatever vechicle ir is to keep yourown tires aired up. i have been selling used tires car, truck and farm tires for years and i very seldom have a problem with them. the fact of the matter is that there is a very high demand for used tires because of the ecomomy.

avatar   Brian Kingsley Mr. Tire Shop & Mr. Used Tires   star   8/30/2010   2:44 PM

Jeff - You are right to do what you feel is right for you to do. And so are those that wish to sell used tires. Tens of thousands are sold every week and how much litigation have we seen from those tens of thousands of sales? About as much litigation as any other service business sees. It's part of being in business unfortunately. That's why there is insurance. That is why there is a need for further education about selling AND purchasing Used Tires. I'm guessing there are far more components on a used car than 4 tires that could cause me to get into an accident and die. Should we stop selling used cars? It's about doing it the right way and keeping the doors or commerce open for small businesses. I'm reluctant to say, but must, you and the author appear to have a person, and lower, opinion of the hard working men and women making a living selling used tires - and new tires - and used cars - used appliances, etc. There is risk all around us. It's about learning how to manage and minimize that risk. That's it.

avatar   Jeff   star   8/30/2010   2:34 PM

Mr. Kingsley and others that are offended by the comments of the author. Are you serious? Do you not read Tire Business or any other trade publication. The world is sue happy over new tires having problems not to mention that one of us dealers might put a used one on. If you have a reputable shop and intend on keeping it, then I recomend you stop selling used tires. We all know it can be a great profit center, but am I really doing my customers a good service by selling them a tire I don't know the history of. I for one am scared to death of getting in a lawsuit over a $20-$40 used tire. And back to you Mr. Kingsley, quite frankly if you have a used tire shop that looks like most used tire shops then you probably don't have much to lose. But for those of us that have an expensive piece of property with nice buildings and equipment, it is just not worth it! And I for one appreciate the author spreading the word.

avatar   Brian Kingsley Mr. Tire Shop & Mr. Used Tires   star   8/30/2010   11:19 AM

You sure lit a tire fire with this...piece. You not only gave an irresponsible personal opinon but went so far as to flat out insult the dealers and shops that do sell used tires responsibly. They feed their families with the money they earn from selling used tires. They help cash strapped consumers. They run a busines and that is how they pay the bills AND, those who do it responsibly... well... you just spit in their faces as far as I'm concerned. You flat out insulted the intelligence and integrity of hundreds if not thousands of hard working "garage" owners as you call them. Did you buy a used tire yesterday and then hit a sharp granite curb this morning on the way to the office? Do you think a new tire would have prevented the tire from going flat? "Any sale is a good sale?" Did you really say that? I guess I would have to respond in kind by saying, any article is a good article. Brian Kingsley, Owner. Mr. Tire Shop & Mr. Used Tires.

avatar   AL'S HUBCAPS   star   8/30/2010   10:40 AM

the only used tires we sell are the ones we take off of our regular customers cars since we know them & their driving habits & we never keep any with rubber cracking or more than 25% worn.

avatar   Brian Kingsley Mr. Used Tires & Mr. Tire Shop   star   8/30/2010   10:16 AM

Know what you don't know? Are you serious? The report you harvested your "facts" from was generated by a company funded (in part - gee, I wonder what percentage) by manufacturers. That's "first off". Then, you, an editor, write the article as though the report was coming out of the United States and flat out state what is clearly a biased opinion and go so far as to pass judgment on shops that sell used tires. Amazing. There happens to be thousands of tire dealers, shops, auto repair shops, etc, that sell perfectly fine - and safe - used tires. Those of us who are proponents of selling used tires, especially because the driving public overwhelmingly are requesting them, might find it hard to believe you're not funded by Tire Manufacturers. Oh, wait, you are. They're called advertisers. I especially loved the fear smear you call "Lawsuit Roulette". Those shops that are struggling to keep their heads above water simply need to make certain they are selling the used tires based on industry safety standards. Is that really difficult to grasp? Nothing you can do insulate those dealers from selling used tires? Again, are you serious? There are many steps a dealer can take with the consumer, including documents signed by a consumer purchasing a used tire, that would in fact insulate the dealer from litigation. These, and other measures, along with educating the dealers, are starting to fall into place as the high demand for used tires continues to increase. Get your facts straight before you try to bring down a booming and needed part of the industry. Brian Kingsley, Owner. Mr. Used Tires and Mr. Tire Shop.

avatar   Red   star   8/30/2010   10:16 AM

This is precisely why the only 'used' tires I'll deal with are take-offs from new cars. Typically with less than 150-250 miles. Or at most 12 months old. Far too risky to deal in just any used tire period.