A buyer’s dilemma: second-hand premium tyres or new low-cost tyres?
You need to buy new tyres. It's a big investment and you want to get the best possible value for money. Of course there are a wide array of options, but also numerous pitfalls you need to avoid.
On the same topic
Driving a car generates a number of fixed costs that owners have to meet whether they like it or not. Just like your brake pads or the engine fluid levels, your tyres need to be checked on a regular basis to ensure your car is safe to drive. New tyres are a painful but unavoidable expense. The tyre market is highly competitive and there are a wide range of products on offer at a wide range of prices. However, even when buying tyres you can look at second-hand options to bring down the cost - on the one vital condition that you do not take any risks by compromising on residual quality and therefore on safety - unless of course you are tempted by the new tyres on offer from numerous low-cost brands at tantalizingly low prices. Whatever your preferred option - BE CAREFUL! Let the buyer beware – make sure you know what to look out for before you buy.
New tyres – huge differences in price…
Tyres use cutting-edge technology and the process to develop and perfect the finished product is long and expensive. That is why they have such a high retail cost, especially if you go for a so-called "premium" brand such as Michelin, Pirelli, Dunlop, Continental, Goodyear or Bridgestone. Of course, it goes without saying that not all the tyres on the market offer the same level of performance and, as with so many things in life, you get what you pay for. So it will come as no surprise that the cost of a tyre from a renowned top brand manufacturer can cost up to 50% more than a tyre produced by a generic low-cost manufacturer rock bottom prices. There is no end to competitors at the low end of the market, with an estimated 300 plus Chinese brands on offer… counting only those imported into Europe.
… and performance
Unfortunately, it would be unwise to let price alone dictate your choice of tyres. The labelling on these tyres should give an initial indicator of their performance capabilities, and generally speaking you will notice that the figures on the cheaper products are less homogeneous, even if you only take the first three labelling criteria. In addition to the labelling, the price also gives you a good idea as to the tyre's versatility: the cheaper it is the less versatile it is. This is the main problem with cheap tyres: imagine a tyre that is efficient on dry surfaces and in terms of rolling resistance… but which only produces a mediocre performance on the wet; or a product whose lifespan is half as long as a new premium tyre; or conversely, a tyre that wears extremely well over time but to the detriment of its dynamic performance. These are the main problems encountered when buying low-cost tyres at unbeatable prices which offer a level of homogeneity, and therefore of security, that is proportional to their low price. In the worst case scenario – with a product that wears very quickly – you won’t have made any financial savings at all by buying a bottom-of-the-range Chinese tyre as you will need to buy new ones much sooner than expected.
Why not go for a second-hand premium tyre?
You want a top quality product but without the new premium tyre price tag? There is another alternative: go for a second-hand premium product . Indeed, the tyre market, like the car market, is awash with second-hand offers. The second-hand market is developing rapidly through dealerships, on the internet and even from scrap yards. It’s a way of getting your tyres at truly unbeatable prices, even for high-end products.
However, there are also some major pitfalls you need to avoid. A tyre is, by definition, a product that wears. Beyond a certain threshold it becomes unfit for use and may even be illegal. The law requires a tread depth of at least 1.6 millimetres at any point on the tyre. Below this threshold the tyre cannot legally be used. Obviously the more worn a second-hand tyre is the closer it is to this minimum legal requirement, and the less use you will get out of it. The purchase price of a second-hand tyre is often calculated according to the amount of wear and the approximate number of kilometres left before it will need to be changed. Most importantly, you need to be sure to check the overall condition of the tyre and for any damage or uneven wear. If the tyre shows signs of either of these you should stay well clear. You also need to remember that you are required by law to fit two similar tyres on the same axle (same size, construction type and dimensions). You should also be aware that in many European countries, the law requires you to fit the same brand on the same axle. Finally, remember that the quality of rubber will be inferior on an old tyre (over 5 years). Be sure to check the age of the tyre.
At the end of the day the performance of a second-hand premium tyre in good condition will no doubt be better and more homogeneous than a low-cost tyre, but you will inevitable get far less use out of a second-hand premium tyre than a new premium tyre.
So, should you buy new low-cost tyres or second-hand premium tyres? Whatever you decide to do you must make sure you make a thorough check of the tyre's efficiency in the main performance areas (road holding on dry surfaces, road holding on wet surfaces, rolling resistance, resistance to wear, braking efficiency on wet and dry surfaces etc.) In theory, a second-hand premium tyre will always perform better, but if you go for this option you need to check the amount of wear and the condition of the structure very carefully.
However, at the risk of stating the obvious, if the aim is to get the maximum use out of your tyres with top levels of performance, the best possible solution remains a new premium tyre.
There is however one situation in which buying second-hand premium tyres might be a better option: when buying winter tyres for limited use. In these circumstances, even if the second-hand tyres have a reduced lifespan in terms of mileage, you will probably get a good deal without compromising on safety and efficiency.
Articles in the same header
- Different types of tyres
- Tyre fitting: a mobile fitting service is possible
- UTQG / Treadwear: what is it for?
- Driving comfort: something to consider when buying tyres
- Where to buy tyres?
- What are the best tyres for my driving environment?
- Second hand tyres: good deal or a risky buy?
- Can I change my tyre size?
- Which tyres for what type of vehicle?
- Symmetric, asymmetric, directional tyres...how do I choose the right tyre?