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Motorists running risks with dangerous tyres

Press release: 10/04/2014

  • 1.5 million motorists have bought sub-standard second hand tyres since 2009
  • One in four (26%) second hand tyres sold do not meet legal safety requirements
  • Police figures show more drivers are now being pulled over for driving with defective tyres - up 9% since 2009

1.5 million [1] motorists have bought sub-standard second-hand tyres since 2009, putting themselves and other road users at risk.

Approximately 23 million [2] part-worn tyres have been sold over the past five years as cash-strapped drivers look to cut the cost of maintaining their vehicle, according to new research from LV= car insurance. It is estimated that one in four (26%) of those sold did not meet the legal safety requirements and were not fit to be used on the road.

The UK has strict rules on the condition and sale of part-worn tyres under the Consumer Protection Act. Second-hand tyres must be stamped 'part-worn' on the side to show that the tyre has been checked and meets all legal requirements. More than half (51%) of British motorists who have purchased second-hand tyres in the past five years were not aware of this legal requirement - and, over the same period, only two in five (41%) said the products they bought were appropriately labelled.

Insufficient tread will reduce a tyre's performance and make brakes less effective, potentially resulting in skidding, and increasing the distance needed to stop [3]. Over the past five years, more than half a million (570,000) motorists who have bought second hand tyres say they have skidded while they had the tyres on their car and an additional 512,000 said their car took longer to stop than usual [4].

Driving with sub-standard tyres not only compromises vehicle safety but it is also a criminal offence. Those caught driving with defective tyres risk a £100 fine and three penalty points for each offending tyre. Police data shows that more motorists are now being pulled over for driving with defective tyres - an increase of 9% since 2009 [5].

With a new set of tyres costing anything up to £1,000 [6] for a set of four compared to just £150 [7] for their part-worn equivalents, motorists can save hundreds of pounds by buying second-hand. The part-worn tyre market is booming as a result but there are some unscrupulous dealers who are selling sub-standard tyres and putting their customers at risk.

According to official figures, the number of part-worn tyre dealerships being investigated by Trading Standards has almost doubled since 2009 [8].

Tyres are crucial to a car's performance and should be checked regularly to ensure they are roadworthy. Yet the majority (78%) of drivers check their tyres less than once a month and one in twenty (4%) leave it until their MOT comes round. According to official guidelines, tyres must have at least 1.6 mm tread across the central three-quarters of the breadth of the tread and around the entire circumference [9]. If tyre tread falls below this then it needs to be replaced otherwise the car will be deemed un-roadworthy.

In the current economic climate, motorists are understandably looking to cut costs wherever they can and buying quality, used tyres is one way to do this. Unfortunately some second-hand tyres sold do not meet the legal safety requirements and are not fit for the road, putting motorists at risk of a criminal conviction or worse. Those looking to buy part-worn should look for reputable dealers that work in accordance with the British Standards Institution, which ensures all tyres sold meet the minimum requirements.

John O'Roarke, Managing Director of LV= car insurance

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For further information please contact:

Vanessa Chance,, 0208 256 6996 / 07947 380074


All research unless stated otherwise was conducted by ICM research. ICM interviewed a random sample of 2,550 adults aged 18+ in GB online between 5 - 7 March 2014. Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.

In addition, LV= issued a freedom of information request to all 51 Police forces and to all 434 local councils in England, Wales and Scotland. At the time of publishing, 40 of the forces and 315 of the councils had responded.

  1. According to ICM omnibus data, 64% of the UK adult population (47.4 million people) drive, and of these 12% have bought second-hand tyres since 2009. 12% of 47,400,000 is 5,688,000. The research states 26% of those who bought second-hand tyres were fully aware that the tyres did not meet the legal safety requirements - 26% of 5,688,000 is 1,478,880.
  2. ICM's research shows the average person who buys second-hand tyres buys four. 5,688,000 (the number who bought these products) x 4 is 22,752,000.
  3. Source: ROSPA, in 2003, the British Rubber Manufacturers Association (BRMA) commissioned MIRA to study the effects of tread depth on stopping distances and it showed that tyres with a tread depth of 0.9mm (below the legal limit) had significantly longer stopping distances. Source:
  4. According to ICM 5,688,000 drivers bought second-hand tyres. Of these 10% skidded and 9% said their car took longer to stop than usual. 0.10 x 5,688,000 = 568,800 and 0.09 x 5,688,000 = 511,920.
  5. Source: Freedom of Information request to all UK constabularies (51 in total) asking for the number of drivers pulled over between 2009 and 2014 for using a vehicle with a defective tyre(s) (CU30). The number of drivers pulled over in 2009/10 was 7,120, compared to 7,751 in 2013/14 – illustrating a rise of 9%.
  6. Michelin Sport Tyres range in price between £105 to £529 per tyre.
  7. According to ICM research the average second hand tyre cost £38. £38 x set of four = £152.
  8. Source: Freedom of Information request to all UK local councils and trading standards departments asking for the number of visitations, investigations and prosecutions they have made with regards to second-hand tyre dealers. The number of investigations in 2009/10 was 26, compared with 50 in 2013/14 – almost double. It is worth noting that this does not take into account whether or not there has been a rise in second-hand tyre dealerships.
  9. Source:

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When we started in 1843 our goal was to give financial security to more than just a privileged few and for many decades we were most commonly associated with providing a method of saving to people of modest means. Today we follow a similar purpose, helping people to protect and provide for the things they love, although on a much larger scale and through a wide range of financial services including insurance, investment and retirement products.

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