New Mid-Range or Used Premium Winter Tires?
If you’re active on social media, you’ve probably noticed an avalanche of snowy posts from around the world. Looking at them, you probably thought “man, it could snow any day and I’m still driving with summer tires”. It’s a bad idea, but you’re late for the party, so what are your options?
The best thing you can do is to purchase a new set of tires and call it a day. Going for some of the premium models gives you the best performance, so it solves the problem for the next several years. With that said, your budget may be limited, so you’ll need a cheaper alternative.
Solving the cost problem is achieved by going for the mid-range tires, which aren’t as “good” as the premium ones. One thing that’s been often recommended is used premium winter tires. I’m not a supporter of buying used tires, but for the sake of this guide, let’s compare them.
Can a used and worn premium winter tire outperform a brand-new mid-range model? Let’s find out.
New Mid-Range vs Used Premium Tires
On paper, a premium tire will outperform a mid-range one in wintery conditions. Even when it’s worn down, many manufacturers claim that the drop in performance is negligible, so this is it, right? No, the answer is much more complicated.
Now all tires are equal performers and I’ve seen some mid-range options delivering better results than premium ones. The next problem is the age and conditions in which the used tire was stored.
It’s a complex problem that can be solved only if we talk about two specific models.
Why are People Considering Used Premium Winter Tires?
The idea behind going for used premium tires is simple – you’re paying less and still get excellent performance. Mid-range tires are often referred to as an affordable option, where you sacrifice a bit of performance and don’t pay as much.
With this in mind, going for a used premium means that you’ll pay roughly similar or sometimes less than a new mid-range tire. Factoring in the fact that premium tires are better performers, you’re getting a bargain.
If price is a major factor in your case, then you can consider buying used premium tires. There are plenty of drawbacks to this, so there are several things to keep in mind if you decide to go down this road.
Why is it Difficult to Compare?
If you’ve been following this site for a while, you’ll have noticed that we do plenty of comparisons. We compare companies, tire categories, and even individual tires. With this in mind, you probably think that we can compare new mid-range and used premium tires, right? Wrong, we can’t and there are several reasons for that.
The first issue here is that we’re taking two large groups of tires – mid-range and premium. We know that the premium ones offer better performance, but there have been expectations. For example, the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R5 is just a tad better than the Michelin X-Ice Snow in snowy conditions.
Right off the bat, the premium model starts with a disadvantage, so if we take these two, the used Michelin model will need to be very cheap to be worth it.
When it comes to performance differences, there are other things to consider. Manufacturers outline the tread depth of the new tires, so we know that even before we pay for them. With used tires, things aren’t always as transparent. Sure, the ad may say the tread depth, but keep in mind that uneven wear is real. One side may have more tread than the other, so that can be an issue.
For me, or anyone else, to say that one tire is better than the other, we need to look at specific cases. When you throw in the used tire in the mix, other aspects should be considered.
Should you Consider Used Premium Winter Tires?
I’m always against used tires, but for the sake of this guide, let me explain why. A used tire is something unknown, so you’re taking a risk. Several factors can make or break the purchase. For the sake of this explanation, let’s assume that you’re looking at a used premium tire that should perform better than a new mid-range one.
The first thing that you need to be aware of is age. As tires age, the rubber loses its flexibility and hardens, leading to loss of performance and cracking. Both can be dangerous in extreme situations.
Whenever you’re looking at used tires, it’s important to check the production week. Tires that are older than 5 or 6 years won’t be anywhere near as good as a new set. This can be the case even if the premium model outperforms the mid-range one.
Next up is tread depth, which is especially essential in non-dry conditions. A bigger tread depth is crucial for snow traction and aquaplaning resistance. Many premium models claim that their tires remain stable even after losing some of the depth, but there is a limit to this. Getting close to the legal limit means that you’ll lose a lot of performance when compared to a new tire.
Finally, we have the storage conditions. Since we’re talking about winter tires, the person selling them most likely has a summer set and changes them. It is important to know if the tires were kept at a hotel or home. Tire hotels are often better options because the conditions are closer to the ideal ones. Not all people that keep the tires at home try to get the conditions right, which can decrease the life expectancy of the tires.
When Should You Consider Used Premium Winter Tires?
Equipped with the knowledge from the previous section, you can probably guess where this is going. The answer to this question is “not very often”. There are some exceptions, but there are also some considerations when looking at used premium winter tires.
Let’s say that the tires you’re looking at are 2 years old, kept in a hotel, and have about 70% of tread left. This sounds good and there’s still plenty of life and performance left in them. The problem is the price.
Tires with these specs won’t be massively cheaper than a new set of mid-range ones. With them, you may get better performance, but it won’t last as long. After several more usable years, you can expect the performance to decline.
Mileage is another aspect you should consider as well. Mid-range tires are pretty good at being long-lasting and are very close to the premium models. With this in mind, the used premium tires should be a lot cheaper to be in a situation where it’s worth it.
The most important thing here is that the used tires I keep referring to are healthy. It means that they’re kept in a hotel and were looked after well.
As far as answering the question, there are a few situations where I can approve purchasing a set of used premium winter tires. Budget is the first one, but there are some caveats. If you decide to go this route, I’d say get the tires for one or two seasons, if they’re not too old.
I can understand that not everyone can afford a set of new premium tires. Using this as an affordable option if you’re on a tight budget this year isn’t the worst thing you can do. It’s much better than relying on an ancient set of winter tires, or in some cases, summer tires.
With that said, I cannot emphasize enough that you’ll need to make sure that the tires are in good enough shape. This covers the age, tread depth, and where and how they were stored.
I know you wanted a concrete answer where I’d say that one is better than the other, but unfortunately, that’s impossible. There are tons of variables here and the topic is very broad.
Yes, in most cases, premium tires are better performers than mid-range ones, and that can be applied here. With that said, there are certain criteria that the tires need to meet for this to be true.
As much as I’m against used tires, I won’t blame someone for considering this option. If you are in this category, make sure that you are getting a decent set for the money. Check the age, tread depth, and overall condition of the tires. If you feel you’re not sure, ask a friend or take them to a tire shop.
At the end of the day, it’s also important to have reasonable expectations. Sure, the premium tires may perform better, but they won’t perform better for too long. There will be a point in their life when they will fall back behind the new mid-range tires.
By the time the new set is 2 years old, the used premium one can be 5 or more, at which point, it won’t be the excellent performer you initially purchased. If you plan on getting by cheap for a season or two, then it’s not a bad option, especially if you’re getting good tires for an attractive price.
In an ideal situation, I’d say that overall, I’d rather buy a set of mid-range tires and use them for 5-6 years, than used premium ones that I’ll throw away in 2 or 3. Regardless of my personal views on this, I can see some situations where people may consider this approach. The most important thing here is not to get played with a bad set of tires. Good tires equal a safe driving experience.
Stay safe and happy snow drifting.