Piles of tires in the desert. That’s what I had stumbled upon.
The photo caught my eye when I searched for “what to do with used tires”. I noticed this huge pile of tires – actually piles and piles of tires against a sandy backdrop.
It was both sad and fascinating. I had to learn more.
It’s known as the Tire Graveyard of Kuwait (this article explains it well).
It’s not too dissimilar to the Eternal Tire Fire from the Simpson’s episodes. I realized that used tires have to go somewhere – just about every car on the road has four tires. Each of those needs to be replaced every few years due to wear, expiration or damage (like dry rot).
We use a lot of tires as humans.
Being a Gearhead, I’m a bit of a skeptic when it comes to “global warming” and that man-made gasses are killing the earth – but I’m also not blind to the fact that humans can destroy the planet if we aren’t conscientious and intentional with our waste.
If we dump tires in the desert, oil in the ground, or throw garbage out the window we hurt the environment. We pollute the waterways, kill wildlife and frankly, it just looks terrible. And the last thing you want to do is to throw them away secretly – we don’t want tires in landfills!
This pile of tires lead me down the path of researching what we can do with our tires so they don’t end up as a feature that can be seen from space. Here’s what I found:
What to Do With Old Tires?
Almost everyone I know has a few scrap tires around their house. Whether they’re snow tires with “just one more season” left in them or a used tire you keep around “just in case”, most people have tires that aren’t being used.
There are a few things you can do with unwanted tires after they’re worn out:
- Sell Your Used Tires
- Drop Them at a Tire Shop or Tire Retailer
- Recycle Your Old Tires at a Disposal Facility
- Repurpose Old Tires
Let’s dig into each method.
1. Sell Your Used Tires
One of the best things you can do with your used tires is to sell them on the secondhand market. As long as they have some tread life left, you may as well let someone else wear them out for a while and bring in a little extra money.
Many used tires have a tread depth that still allows for some use. There are people who can’t afford a new set of tires, or just need something that holds air until they can get a new set (or there are people like me who bought a whole set of used tires just so we could fit my son’s project truck in the garage while we work on it).
Either way, there is a thriving secondary market for used tires. But you can’t sell something that is worthless.
How to Inspect an Old Tire to Sell
First, make sure there are no holes, cracks or tears in your tire, as these are a hassle to fix and nobody would likely want to buy them.
Next, measure the tire’s treads (you can use a tread depth gauge or use a coin to check the depth) to ensure that it’s at least an eighth of an inch in depth; otherwise, the tire won’t be considered safe to use. This is one of the best-selling tread gauges on Amazon.
Once you’ve ensured that your tire is eligible to sell, take pictures of the tire to document its condition, as this will help to ensure that your buyer knows what they’ll be getting (and helps you have an account of the tire’s condition before the sale, just in case).
If you know how many miles you’ve driven on the tires and when you bought them it may help you to sell them faster. People like to know the details – especially when it comes to components that can be dangerous if they’re bad when you buy them.
Where to Sell Used Tires
If you want to make a little cash for tires that are old but still usable and are asking yourself, “Where can I sell used tires?” consider selling them on local classified marketplaces.
You can also use local sales channels to sell used tires online. Though it may sound strange, the process is rather simple. Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Letgo/OfferUp, Kijiji or regional classifieds are best. You want to list them someplace where they’ll be seen and sold (why not list on all of them?)
Finally, advertise for your tires either in newspapers or in online classifieds. The market for used tires is booming in the United States, so you’ll likely find a dealer, but if not, you can contact a local auto retailer to try to sell the tire—simply call to ask whether they’ll buy used tires and which type they might take.
There are people who make it their business to buy used tires from individuals on these marketplaces to only turn them around in their used tire shop or online store. They have built up a huge used tire inventory in many cases (the guy I bought my tires from had hundreds of sets and offered a guarantee if they didn’t hold air he’d take them back).
Other Places to Sell a Used Tire
If your tire is in good enough shape, you can also sell it to a tire retreading facility. While this option is most common for 18-wheeler truck tires, it’s possible that a retreading facility will accept different tires. Just call them in advance to confirm that that’s the case and to check on their requirements.
You can expect to get a maximum of $40 for each tire, though the money you get will depend entirely on the condition of the tire and the facility’s standards.
If your tire is too worn out it may be better to pay to have them destroyed or take them to a recycling facility as even retread centers don’t need any waste tires.
How to Price a Used Tire
In general, price your tire according to the depth of its tread, as this is one of the best indicators of its age and health.
The difference in tread sizes can actually make quite a difference in selling price; a tire with half its old tread can go for about half the price of a new tire, and one with less tread will sell for proportionately less.
A good range is anywhere from $25 to $150 per tire depending on size, remaining tread, age and your negotiating skills.
I was able to talk my guy down to $100 total for five tires because I wanted the whole set, paid in cash, and had to drive 25 miles to meet him. They had 6/32 of tread left and are still holding air after six months.
2. Drop Them at a Tire Shop or Tire Retailer
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of selling your tires, you can always leave them with an auto shop or a tire shop in your area. If the used tires are already on your car, you can leave the old tires with the shop when they change out the new ones. From there, the shop will likely sell them to a tire dealer themselves.
Keep in mind, however, that auto shops aren’t necessarily going to jump at the opportunity to take your old tire, so be sure to check with them in advance. In fact, some even charge a fee to take used tires, so it’s very important to confirm everything with them.
Tire shops are used to getting takeoffs and other scrap tires daily. Most of the time they charge a tire fee to take them from you. Most auto shops, including the tire centers at Big Box retailers, like Walmart, will take tires from you even if you didn’t buy new ones from them.
If you do buy a new set, the tire service center will usually take your old tires for you – just expect to pay a tire disposal fee as most retailers aren’t in the business of re-selling waste tires. Most of the time they’ll sell them to a used tire dealer or they’ll send them off to a recycling center.
That’s why it may be better to take them to a recycling center yourself.
3. Recycle Your Old Tires at a Disposal Facility
If your tire is in bad shape and simply needs to be disposed of, don’t leave it on a street corner or throw it into the garbage. Because tires are made of various rubbers, wires, and fabric, they don’t naturally decompose, and burning them produces considerable pollution.
Recycling tires that are too far gone for re-use is the best option in this case.
Most recycling centers will take your tires free of charge. FREE OF CHARGE – that was worth repeating louder in case you missed it the first time.
Instead, look into whether there’s a tire recycler in your area. For the reasons mentioned above, tires require special recycling procedures, and not all waste maintenance and recycling companies will accept them. However, there are a number of tire recycling facilities throughout the United States that can take tires and correctly recycle them by disassembling and repurposing their pieces.
This recycling process doesn’t just avoid harmful pollutants—it actually produces a number of great products. When recycled, used tires can be used to create construction materials, tracks for athletic parks, and safe rubber playground turf, among other products.
Recycled tires account for a large percentage of the rubber mulch that is used in most new parks, playgrounds and common areas.
4. Repurpose Used Tires
In some cases, used tires can be given new life through upcycling—creatively reusing products as various household items.
For instance, you might be able to convert your old tire into an item like a flower planter, a tire swing, a side table, a footstool, a piece of exercise equipment, sandals and much more.
As a racing fan, I always like seeing old tires when they’re used around a race track as safety barriers. They just kind of sit there, but it’s a poetic setting for a tire graveyard.
Or, if you’re experienced with DIY crafting, you could strip the rubber from the tire to make your own flip flops or other items.
I know of a few people who built cabins in the mountains using tires, hay bales and concrete/plaster between the walls. Used tires can be repurposed and used in construction.
In fact, the pile of tires in the Kuwait desert will be repurposed into building materials (like tiles) and a neighborhood is slated to be built on the site where the mounds now exist. That’s a great use for waste tires!
What NOT to do with Worn Tires
There are obviously a few things you shouldn’t do with the used tires that you no longer need. Here are several things that I’ve come across in my research – and some of the things I’ve done.
- Dump your tires in the dumpster – this is illegal in most areas and it clogs up landfills with tires that don’t decompose quickly. Illegal tire dumping is still a problem today – even though we have so many options available to us that are FREE or can make you money.
- Dump them in the woods, lakes or ocean – I’m not even going to go into this one. It’s obviously the wrong choice.
- Pile them up and burn them – don’t do this either. It’s bad for you to inhale the smoke. Bad for the environment and anyone who’s in the area. Plus, a tire fire can be very dangerous.
- Roll them down a hill & lose them – We used to do this all the time growing up. We had a really tall hill that we’d roll tires down. It was great fun. Most of the time we’d gather them up and take them back home when we were done. But there were a couple of times when we lost the tire and it’s probably sitting out there somewhere in a juniper tree.
Better Disposal Solution: Find Tires That Last Longer
Vehicle tires will remain with us as long as we have cars that drive on roads. But, the disposal of tires will be a major problem for years to come unless we figure out what to do with them.
Or, if we think outside the box in a way such that there’s less tire waste.
I’m really excited about Goodyear’s new “airless” tires that will be hitting the roads soon. (check out our forthcoming deep dive on Non-Pneumatic Tires – or NPTs)
Think about a set of tires where you “retread” them when they start to wear out. And the only thing that you have to do is take off a thin ring of rubber then put a new one on. The only “consumable” is the tread. The rest of the tire skeleton stays with the car.
I don’t even know if that’s how the NPTs from Goodyear, Bridgestone or Michelin work – but it would help solve this waste issue.
This would also save so much money, space and the environment. Because, if done properly, you could probably recycle the ring and make more tread for other cars.
There are some great things to explore when it comes to tires and our future.
It’s something we could go around and around with for days! I never get tired of puns. [I’ll see myself out…]
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you sell tires online?
The short answer is yes. While you can potentially arrange a tire sale with an online retailer, you’re also able to sell old tires through outlets like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp/LetGo, Kijiji, eBay or eBay Classifieds, and Oodle Marketplace.
Where can I find a tire retread facility?
There are tire retread facilities throughout the United States, and some of the largest companies—A&A Tire & Wheel, Corporate Tire, and Retread Tire Management—might have retread facilities near you. If not, consult an online guide to find a nearby facility where you can sell your tires. Keep in mind that most of these places specialize in semi-truck tires.
Where can you get tires unmounted or remounted?
If you’re not trained in auto maintenance, always get your tires unmounted by a professional. Any standard auto service center or garage will be able to unmount your tire and potentially keep the tire if you don’t want to dispose of it (likely for a fee).
Most tire shops will remount your tires, including balance, for around $10 each. It pays to call around to a few places if you’re looking to have used tires mounted.
How much do used tires sell for?
While the value of used tires will depend on the facility to which you’re selling them, you can expect to get, on average, between $25 and $150 per tire; this means that a complete set will sell anywhere from $100 to $600.
Keep in mind, of course, that this price depends on the condition of your tire, including the size of its treads and whether it has any wear-and-tear. Worn-out tires rarely sell if they can’t hold air or are bald. In addition, if you’re selling a tire in person, it’s likely that you’ll have to haggle for it—there aren’t strict regulations on selling tires, and buyers will naturally want to get the best price possible.