The idea that a retread is far inferior to a new tire is a bit like Bigfoot – some people don’t believe in it, some do, and don’t confuse those true believers with the facts because their minds are made up.
For the sake of argument, though, let’s play with a few facts and perceptions. Assume retreads are less durable. That’s the perception of 43 percent of respondents to the 2008 Overdrive Owner-Operator Market Behavior Report. Among those skeptics, almost half believe retreads give them 7 or 8 miles to every 10 miles they get with a new tire before replacement. However, before they rule out retreads, they need to consider price: If a retread cost less than 70 percent of a comparable new tire, and other attributes such as reliability are equal, then it’s a deal.
A top-brand new tire in two of the most common sizes often sells for $400 to $450 or more, says Harvey Brodsky, managing director of the Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau. Compare that to $150 for retreading your tire casing or $200 for buying a recently retreaded casing outright and “it’s a no-brainer,” he says. The savings can easily exceed 50 percent, “which is why the best-run fleets in the world use retreads,” Brodsky says, citing Schneider National, Yellow Transportation, FedEx and UPS, among many others.
Furthermore, the major tire makers would not operate retread divisions and advertise that their tires are good for retreading unless the products were sound, he argues: “Those tires are designed for multiple lives.”
To be fair, if you’re weighing value under the assumption that retreads have a shorter life, you need to count the cost of extra downtime and labor for tire replacement. Still, this should be relatively infrequent, and therefore arguably covered by the difference in purchase price.
For owner-operators who believe retreads hold up as well as new tires, buying retreads is an easy decision. And for those who doubt, “it still makes economic sense to use retread tires,” says Chris Brady of Commercial Motor Vehicle Consulting, which conducts the Market Behavior Report. “In their view, the lower miles to replacement is more than offset by the lower purchase price.”
How retreads’ green grows
The same factors behind retreads’ low cost – reduced raw materials and production costs – also make their use beneficial for the environment.
It takes about 22 gallons of oil to make a new truck tire, most of which goes into the casing. It takes only seven gallons of oil to produce a retread.
All tires are destined for the landfill. But with quality tire casings capable of being retreaded twice, use of retreads can dramatically slow the influx of tires into dumps.
The average heavy-duty tire weighs 117 pounds. When the casing is ready for retreading, it requires only 27 pounds of rubber and other materials.