You undoubtedly know that once your tyres start to get too worn, you’ll need to replace them. Worn tyres will result in less grip on the road, which can result in accidents. Not to mention points on your licence. So the question is, how long do tyres last for, and when should you think about buying new tyres? 

There is no simple answer to this question, as there are so many factors that will impact your tyre life. For example, people travel different distances a month, and road conditions vary. The make of tyre you buy can make a difference too. Or you could be unlucky enough to drive over something sharp that causes a slow puncture. There are all sorts of reasons for needing to replace your tyres, and we’ve explored this topic in more detail below:

How Long Do Tyres Last on a Car?

The first thing to remember with tyre lifespans is that the front and back tyres will last very different lengths of time. A typical front-wheel drive car, if taken out under normal driving conditions, should have around 20,000 miles on the front tyres, and about 40,000 miles on the back tyres. So essentially, the back tyres should last twice as long as the front. 

tyres on a car

What Effects Tyre Lifespans?

The main thing that impacts how long tyres last is the amount of wear they get. The more you drive, the more the tread will be smoothed down, meaning they’ll need to be replaced. But it’s not just about how often you drive, the below factors also affect tyre wear:

  • Alignment: If your wheel alignment is wrong, tyres will wear down more quickly, and perhaps unevenly
  • Driven Wheel: If you have a front-wheel drive, the front wheels will wear down faster, while the back wheels will be worse off on a rear-wheel drive
  • Pressure: If your tyres are under or over inflated, they’ll wear quicker
  • Speed: As you could probably guess, driving faster can increase the wear of your tyres, as can aggressive braking and cornering 
  • Weight: A heavier vehicle will cause faster wear, so make sure you clean out your car of any unnecessary weight, such as roof boxes and bike racks

And if you are trying to be more economical about your car expenses, like not having to replace your tyres as often, you can also check out our guide on Ways to Save Fuel.

Does the Age of the Tyre Matter?

It’s easy to assume that if you don’t drive your vehicle too much, thus the tyres don’t get a lot of wear, they won’t need replacing as often. But it is possible for tyres to age rather than wear out. Your tyres will naturally degrade through exposure to the elements - sunlight, heat, and rain. Environmental damage can also cause the tyres to crack, especially in severe weather. So if you don’t use your vehicle regularly, like with a caravan or trailer, it’s best to keep it indoors where possible, to protect the tyres from aging.

If you’re not sure how old your tyres are, you can easily check this by looking for a code on the side of the tyre. On the sidewall of the tyre, you should be able to find the letters ‘DOT’ (which stands for Department of Transportation) and next to this should be four numbers. The first two numbers refer to the week of manufacture, while the second pair of numbers represent the year. For example, the number 0220 means the second week of 2020.

It’s uncommon for tyres to need replacing due to age, as the tyre tread tends to wear down before than can happen. If your tyres are more than four or five years old though, it’s a good idea to check them for cracking. And if you discover that their DOT code only has three digits, this means the tyres were made before the year 2000, and should be immediately replaced. 

When Should You Replace Your Tyres?

When it comes to replacing your tyres, there are a few legal requirements that you need to meet. The tyres need to be compatible with the car, be in good overall condition, and correctly inflated to the right pressure. In terms of tread, the depth of tread needs to be at least 1.6mm deep. You can check this using a 20p coin - if the outer band of the coin is hidden when inserted into the tyre tread, the tyre is above the legal limit. 

It’s generally recommended that you replace your tyres when the tread depth gets below 3mm, or at least before it gets under 2mm. If you’re unsure whether you need to get new tyres, a tyre specialist will be able to offer help and advice. 

mechanic check car tyre

Tips for Buying New Tyres

If you need to buy new tyres for your vehicle, it’s a good idea to do a little bit of research first. There are several things to consider when choosing a new set of tyres, such as what compound was used to make them. Tyres made from harder materials are designed for longer life, but tend to be noisier - the tread pattern can also impact the noise of the wheels. 

You may have also heard of ‘first fit’ tyres, which are the type of tyre your car came fitted with when new. You don’t have to stick to this sort of tyre, but bear in mind that vehicle and tyre manufacturers often work closely with each other to pick the best size and tread pattern for a car. Therefore first fit tyres should last longer than replacements.  

Another thing to consider when buying tyres is whether to get part-worn tyres. These probably won’t have much wear on them, but there is no guarantee that they’ve been looked after or stored properly. Essentially, you don’t know the history of the tyres, like how old they are or their overall condition. It’s not generally recommended that you don’t buy part-worn tyres for this reason, but you may get lucky, and save yourself some money.