Skip to main content

Buying part worn tyres – what operators need to know

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Enforcement, Features, Guides and reports

Cut in tread area on tyre opened up and shiny cords can be seen 

Knowing about and understanding tyre condition is very important. It’s even more important when it comes to issues surrounding part-worn tyres. 

What are part-worn tyres? 

Part-worn tyres are in use every day. If you buy a second-hand vehicle and do not replace the tyres with a new set immediately you are, in effect, buying part-worn tyres.  

But some tyres are sold as part-worn without the second-hand vehicle! It is not illegal to sell and fit these part-worn tyres. 

The Tyre Industry Federation estimates around 5 million, or 10% of all tyres purchased in the UK are in the part-worn category.  

New tyres are manufactured to a very high standard and are designed to be safe down to the legal tread limit.  

Tyres removed from vehicles and re-sold with minimal tread wear are not immediately unsafe. However, there could be serious risks if there is an underlying issue with a second-hand tyre someone has bought.

If you buy part-worn tyres, you should expect that they have been properly inspected and tested before sale.  

The role of the Market Surveillance Unit (MSU) and part-worn tyres 

The MSU monitors vehicles, products and components in the UK automotive sector to monitor compliance with the relevant regulations including environmental and safety standards. 

What to look out for when buying part-worn tyres 

Look out for the general condition of any part-worn tyres you are thinking of buying. You should check: 

  • the structural integrity isn’t compromised. They should be free of cuts longer than 25 millimetres or 10% of the section width of the tyre (whichever is the greater), measured in any direction, on the outside of the tyre and not be deep enough to reach the ply or cord 
  • the original grooves are clearly visible in their entirety and must be to a depth of at least 2mm across the full breadth of the tread and around the entire circumference 
  • there are no lumps or bulges either internally or externally caused by the separation or partial failure of its structure 
  • none of the ply or cord is exposed internally or externally 
  • tyres must have passed an inflation test before sale. When inflated to the highest pressure at which it is designed to operate, the tyre must not exhibit any of the external defects 
  • any penetration damage has been repaired to British Standard BS AU 159  

All part-worn tyres which have not been re-treaded must clearly show the relevant ‘E’ mark, with “PART-WORN” in uppercase letters at least 4mm high permanently and legibly applied to the tyre.  

Joint work with Trading Standards and Environmental Health 

DVSA carries out joint operations with Trading Standards in GB and the Environmental Health Service in Northern Ireland. These focused on the supply of tyres at point of sale.  

MSU also investigates the sale of part-worn tyres purchased from online retailers. 

What have we found? 

All the part-worn tyres bought during our investigations have complied with the minimum tread depth requirement with 96% having a tread depth exceeding 4mm.  

However, 85% were not correctly marked and were therefore non-compliant. 

Also, 11% of tyres bought during the exercises were more than 10 years old. 

Issues we have found include:  

  • a cut in the primary tread area, deep enough to expose the metal cords 
  • an incorrectly fitted tyre - outside sidewall of tyre fitted to inside of wheel rim 
  • an abnormal bulge in one of the side walls  
  • a repair in a permitted area with a “string” type plug - this type of repair does not conform to British Standard (BS AU standards) as it does not form a permanent seal and may not be secure 
  • 3 hard objects penetrating the tyre 

If we continue to be able to buy unsafe tyres or there are continued breaches of the marking regulations, we will investigation thoroughly and take action against the businesses concerned. 

We want to reassure operators that we are monitoring the sale of part worn tyres to help keep vehicles on our roads safe and compliant.  

Tyres bought should meet the legal requirements and MSU will continue to monitor suppliers to ensure they meet rules and regulations 

Reporting illegal part-worn tyre sales 

If you believe a manufacturer or supplier is illegally supplying part-worn tyres you should contact your local Trading Standards office. 

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Paul Turner posted on

    Whilst a part worn tyre may appear okay don’t forget to check it’s age. Easily done by looking at the last four numbers of the DOT code - the first two are the month of manufacture and the last two are the year …ie date code of 0118 would mean the tyre was manufactured in week 1 of 2018. Oh and if the date code is only 3 digits it’s a pre 2000 so run a mile!

  2. Comment by cp posted on

    I have been using part worn tyres and the supplier has always offered a good standard of tyre however I havent seen any with "part worn" markings. Are traders being informed that it's a legal requirement

    • Replies to cp>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi - The marking could be on the sidewall of the tyre. If you see them being supplied without the relevant markings, you should report the business to your local Trading Standards Office in GB or Environmental Health in Northern Ireland.

  3. Comment by ALAN YATES posted on

    This needs to roll out to the class 4 vehicles, i/we examine the local taxi/hackney fleet and still find a large proportion of part worn tyres being used. None of these tyres are marked, bulges and sub standard repairs has been common. run flats used anywhere/anyhow and repaired.

    • Replies to ALAN YATES>

      Comment by Josh (DVSA) posted on

      Hello Alan, thanks for getting in touch and providing your feedback. We want to make sure all vehicle operators are aware of the rules and possible safety implications of buying tyres that are not compliant.
      We will reaching be out to owners, drivers and operators of vehicles of all sizes and uses to highlight our findings, and the legislation for part-worn tyres. Kind regards.

  4. Comment by Jane Brown posted on

    No one should be purchasing second hand, part worn tyres.
    What kind of business would consider such a thing.
    If you are charging the correct rate for your services then you should well afford new tyres. If you have the financial standing that is legally required you can afford new tyres.

    • Replies to Jane Brown>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Jane. It is up to each businesses to decide if they want to buy part-worn tyres. It is not illegal to do so but they must check the condition of those they do buy to make sure they are roadworthy.

  5. Comment by Trevor posted on

    Nominally the same as daily check requirements for drivers. With a bit of simple maths it's easy to estimate the total length and area of tyres the driver is accountable for. Any suggestion 15 minutes is sufficient for a thorough check is laughable on all but the smallest vehicles.
    Tyres do get changed part worn for various reasons. Purchasing part worn is rarely economical. More simple maths.

    • Replies to Trevor>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Trevor. We don't specify how long it should take to check the condition of the tyres on their vehicles. Drivers should do a thorough walkaround check and leave enough time for this before they start their journey.