Whether you need to replace one, two, or all four tires on your vehicle, it can be a costly investment. Consumer Reports found that in 2021, it cost between $137 and $187 each for new tires, depending on the type of vehicle. This prohibitive cost may lead you to consider used tires, which are around 30% to 50% less expensive than buying new ones.
While used tires typically cost less, you may need to consider safety and legality if you purchase them for your vehicle. Knowing what to look for when buying used tires, how they differ from new tires, and what Louisiana’s tire statutes and regulations require can ensure your car remains safe to drive after tire replacement.
Most states in the United States feature a law or statute called a tread depth statute, which specifies the minimum depth a tire’s treads must possess to be road-legal. The most common minimum tread depth is 2/32”.
While Louisiana has a tire statute, it is different from the tread depth statutes found in other states. According to the Revised Statutes of Louisiana (RS 32:362), road-legal vehicles in the state must have tires with a minimum rubber thickness of 1 inch, measuring from the rim flange.
Though state legislation does not specify a minimum tread thickness, driving on bald or excessively worn tires is not recommended. They lack the traction of a newer tire with more tread depth and cannot displace as much water, leading to an increased risk of hydroplaning.
If you purchase used when replacing one or multiple tires on your vehicle, check they are in good condition to ensure your safety on the road. When buying a used tire, inspect it for the following:
You can check a tire’s age by reading some of the markings inscribed on the sidewall. The auto industry recommends replacing tires after approximately six years, after which the rubber starts breaking down, increasing the risk of a blowout while driving. This means you should avoid buying used tires over six years old.
All tires sold in the United States must feature a Department of Transportation (DOT) code indicating when the tire was manufactured. The last four numbers of the 11-digit DOT code show the week and year of manufacture.
For example, 3321 means the tire was made in the 33rd week of 2021, corresponding to mid-August.
Always check the tread depth when buying used tires to ensure they are safe to drive on. One of the easiest ways to check a tire’s tread depth is to conduct the penny test. With Lincoln’s face turned in your direction, place a penny into the tire rib with Lincoln’s head upside down.
- If the top of Lincoln’s head is still visible, the tire has less than 2/32” of tread depth remaining and should not be driven on.
- If the tread depth is approximately at the top of Lincoln’s forehead, the tire has about 4/32” of tread depth remaining, meaning it has little usable life left.
- If the tread depth covers some or all of Lincoln’s face, you have more than 4/32” of tread depth remaining, meaning the tire is probably safe to use.
Tread Wear Patterns
Examine the tire tread carefully for any uneven or irregular wear patterns. Uneven wear can indicate alignment or suspension issues with the vehicle. Avoid tires with excessive wear on the edges, center, or specific areas, as they may affect performance and safety.
Inspect the sidewalls for any signs of cracks, bulges, or other damage. These can indicate internal tire damage or aging, making the tire more prone to blowouts. Avoid tires with previous sidewall damage, as this may compromise the tire’s safety and reliability.
Previous Repairs or Patches
Check for visible repairs or patches on the tire surface. You can do this by looking for patches, a rubber material applied to the tire’s inner surface. It may look like a slightly raised or discolored area and appear oval.
Also, check for crosshatch patterns, glue residue, or texture irregularities on the tire that may indicate a patch was used to repair a puncture.
Poorly repaired or patched tires may have weakened areas, increasing the risk of a blowout or loss of air pressure. Although a professionally repaired tire may still be safe, it’s best to choose used tires that have not been patched or buy new.
While buying new tires may be more expensive, these tires can keep you safe on the road. Buying new is preferable over buying used for the following reasons:
- New tires always have factory-fresh tread depth, ensuring maximum grip and traction.
- Buying new tires comes with the guarantee of getting the tire’s maximum lifespan. They are usually covered by a warranty from the manufacturer or retailer, giving you additional peace of mind.
- New tires ensure you have the right model for your specific vehicle, supporting proper alignment and function and making them safer to drive on.
- Driving on new tires is safer for everyone on the road. Worn-out tires are three times as likely to be involved in a crash than tires with the correct tread depth, according to the U.S. Tire and Manufacturers Association and the NHTSA.
Tires are an important part of vehicle maintenance and can affect everyone’s safety on the road. If you are involved in an accident with a car due to unsafe tires, the Louisiana auto accident attorneys can help you understand your rights.
We work on behalf of car accident victims throughout the state and will help you file an insurance claim, collect evidence, and receive compensation for injuries you suffered. We will handle your case with the care and compassion you need to help you focus on recovering. Contact us for a free case evaluation.
This content has been reviewed by Chad Lederman, Director of Legal Operations at our New Orleans office.
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