How to Find Used Tires: A Scrounger’s Guide

Bob Sutter explains how he gets safe, reliable used tires for almost half the price of new tires.

| July/August 1978

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    These are just a few of the many tires that a typical auto salvage yard has to pick from, and they're generally all chalk-marked for size too.
    PHOTO: BOB SUTTER
  • Car1
    Maybe you didn't know it, but this establishment wants your business, and its prices are right too! 
    BOB SUTTER
  • Car4
    Note the good, uniform tread on the tire to the right, versus the uneven wear — probably caused by poor wheel alignment — exhibited by the doughnut to the left.
    BOB SUTTER
  • Car3
    Checking the depth of tread on a used tire is easy and anything over 3/16-inch is good.
    BOB SUTTER
  • Car6
    By simply pushing a tire down onto a rock, you can quickly expose its "innards" for inspection.
    BOB SUTTER
  • Car5
    The wear bands (which show here as "breaks" in the tread grooves) on these two tires fairly scream that there are very few good miles left in this rubber.
    BOB SUTTER
  • Car7
    Why is this man smiling? He just saved over $100 by buying his "new" tires in a used auto parts yard.
    BOB SUTTER

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Tire companies hate people like me: I’m what's known as a "tough sell". For the past nine years, I've turned a deaf ear to every advertisement for "sale-priced tires" that I've been exposed to ... because I know how to get top-quality treads (steel-belted radials, no less) for just $5.00 to $20 apiece. And I'm not talking about retreads or baldies, either. Nope. I'm talkin' 'bout good, long-lasting tires.

How do I keep from paying a budget busting $40 to $70 each for new tires? Simple. All I do — whenever my vehicle needs new rubber — is visit a few of the larger auto wrecking yards in the area and take my pick from hundreds of choices, nearly new tires that've been removed from damaged autos. (Nearly every car in the boneyard has been crunched up in some way . . . but in almost all cases, the tires are still salvageable. This is "my kind" of automobile footwear.)

In four hours or so of "work" on a Saturday morning, I figure I can save about $100 on rubber for my Volkswagen while at the same time recycling precious petroleum products (the "rubber" now used in auto tires is mostly synthetic). You, too, should be able to save at least this much on your car's tire-related expenses ... even more, if you drive a vehicle (such as a truck or van) that requires relatively expensive treads.

How to Get Started Finding Used Tire Bargains

Step one in finding used-tire bargains is to scan the Yellow Pages for the names and addresses of auto wrecking lots in your locale. (The best selection can generally be found in a sizable city, so if you live near a metropolis, check out that area's phone directory.) I always call ahead to make sure the establishment(s) in question save(s) salvageable tires. The yards that don't, of course, aren't worth my (or your) time.



Next, it's time to don some old clothes and — with a list of auto parts yards in hand, your exact tire size in mind, and a knife in your pocket — head out for the closest "tire recycling center".

When I arrive at my first hunting ground, I tell the parts broker in the front office what I'm after. He or she will then give me [1] directions to the rubber rack and [2] free rein to browse. Sometimes, an extra man will be assigned to assist me, which is fine. It always helps to have someone pre-sort the tires into "right" and "wrong" sizes. I take care, however, to see that I — not the yard employee — make the final choice of merchandise.



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