Should You Buy Retread Tires?

A person inspecting the tread on a worn tire. Chris Fertnig/iStock

Most people go through multiple sets of tires during the life of their car. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 1.2 million tons of tires ended up in the landfill in 2018 alone. But is tire retreading a more environmentally friendly way to extend tire life or are you better off buying a new set of good tires?

“Tire retreading involves taking a tire that is worn out and removing the remaining layer of old tread and applying a new tread to that tire so you have a fresh tread again,” says Ryan Pszczolkowski, Consumer Reports’ tire program leader. “This was common back in the day of bias tires when you only got 10,000 to 20,000 miles out of car tires. Nowadays, virtually all car tires are longer-lasting. Radial tire design can last 70,000 or 80,000 or more miles if properly maintained.”

CR doesn’t recommend retreading passenger vehicle tires. Simply put, a local shop would not be able to fit fresh tread on a worn tire in a way that is more durable and safer than what a major manufacturer can do at its factory. Even if the tread is fresh, the steel belts and side wall are not. They could be experiencing the effects of aging and environmental wear, and may conceal hidden damage.

Large tractor-trailer truck tires are still retreaded because those big tires are so expensive, Pszczolkowski says.  For best value and to be environmentally friendly, maintain your tires, including checking tire pressure routinely, for optimum tread life.

“The real issue comes down to how much life is left in the core of the tire you used for, say, 60,000 or 70,000 miles,” Pszczolkowski says. “Tires get a lot of abuse and it’s better—and safer—to have a fresh set when the time comes to replace.”

Tires come in a range of prices. There are good, budget-priced models in all categories that are more suitable than going the retread route.

This article has been adapted from an episode of Talking Cars.