How Do I Know If Old Tires were Sold to Me as New?

Luckily for the consumer, there are ways to tell if a tire sold as “new” to you is actually new, or if the retailer only calls it that because it has yet to hit the pavement.


flat tire

Be careful when shopping for new tires – many stores, even the more reputable ones like Pep Boys and Wal-Mart, will actually sell aged tires with such a label. Though legal, such a practice is highly dangerous. Consumers need to know about the risks of purchasing an old tire that, while unused, may still pose some serious threats.

Old Tires Sold as New

Retail outlets sometimes fail to make a distinction between “unused” and “new” when it comes to selling tires. This is absolutely to the detriment of consumers, whose lives are placed at great risk of fatalities and serious injuries as a result of the following types of accident:

  • Rollovers
  • Roof crushes
  • Tread separations
  • Blowouts

In reality, far too many new tires are actually old tires; they just have yet to be outfitted to a vehicle. But they can be just as dangerous as used tires with more than a few miles of experience. Rubber ages. After six years, it grows too brittle to adequately perform. This is precisely why experts believe you should switch out your tires (including spares!) every six years.

The normal aging process of rubber can be sped up because of poor storage conditions, too. Extreme heat and extreme cold both lead to serious damage to new tires. In some instances, the problems caused by surroundings alone can be just as problematic and potentially dangerous as used tires.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to report incidents of old tires being sold as new. No laws regulate or bar the practice. No matter its age, a tire may be considered “new” provided nobody has driven on it. In the event of a serious accident involving an aged tire labeled “new” and serious injuries or fatalities, however, the retailer can be held liable. So some protection is afforded, but sadly not on the front end.

Identifying a New Tire

Luckily for the consumer, there are ways to tell if a tire sold as “new” to you is actually new, or if the retailer only calls it that because it has yet to hit the pavement. Every tire sold in the United States must have a serial number issued. These contain coded information about the manufacturer, plant and date created.

The following graphic outlines how to interpret DOT tire codes. Print it out and keep it on hand when shopping for tires so you can make the safest purchasing decisions for yourself and your family – not to mention other drivers and pedestrians!

how to identify the DOT code on a tire

In some more unscrupulous incidents, used or aged tires may be labeled as “new.” Savvy consumers can make note of this using a technique known as the “penny test.” The measure allows you a chance to test the validity of claims made about “new” tires and helps prevent you from spending your money on a potential danger. So make sure to bring the eponymous coin with you in addition to the DOT tire code chart.

We’ve outlined the steps needed to conduct the penny test, including visuals, here.

Please keep in mind that all of the information provided here also applies to spare tires! When you replace your four on the floor, make sure you do the same for your spare. Those stored above the engine or other especially hot regions of your vehicle are the most vulnerable to environmental damages.

Defective Tire Attorney

Willis Law Firm has experience handling cases involving old tires sold as new and the subsequent serious accidents. We’ve got what it takes to assist with every step of the litigation process, and the Martindale-Hubble and Steven J. Sharp honors to show for it. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.

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