Revealing the True Extent of Illegal Tyres in the UK

02nd Dec 2020

By Daniel Hitchman

Overview of our findings

  • Cost of illegal tyre fines across the UK could be as high as £21.2 billion, study suggests
  • Stockport has highest average failure rate with 39.2%
  • Average failure rate has risen by 3% in 2020
  • Yellow and Brown cars most likely to have illegal tyres
  • Average failure rate found to steadily rise throughout year
  • Vehicles aged between 5-10 years old most likely to have illegal tyres

Over 8.5 million UK motorists could be driving with illegal tyres according to a recent study we completed.

The data within the study has been derived from vehicle servicing completed by our network between January 2019 and October 2020, with 399,480 customer vehicles serviced during that period.

Findings revealed that there were 105,147 instances where tyres on customer cars had been found to be illegal or 'Safety Critical', which equates to an average failure rate of 26%.

General findings

Under current UK law, a motorist can be fined up to £2,500 per illegal tyre and three points added to their licence.

Using the maximum imposable fine for a single illegal tyre and comparing it against 26% of the UK's driving population (currently 32.7 million drivers), we have determined that the cost of illegal tyre fines in the UK could be as high as £21.2 billion a year.

Of the towns involved, we found that Stockport had the highest average failure rate with 39.2%. Stockport topped 2019 with a failure rate of 36%, but this rose sharply to 43% in 2020.

UK towns top 20

average uk tyre failure rate by location 

Stockport has the highest average failure rate (39.2%), with Bury and Portsmouth following closely with an average rate of 36.8% and 36.3% respectively.

The study suggests that vehicles are more likely to have illegal tyres if they are in the South West of the UK (30% failure rate), which is 7% higher than East Anglia, where vehicles are least likely to have dangerous tyres.

Comparison: 2019 vs 2020

average uk tyre failure rate by year 

The average tyre failure rate rose by a noticeable 3% during 2020, which reflects in the majority of the towns included in the data sample.

We noticed a trend that tyre failure rates tend to steadily rise throughout the course of the year, with January having the lowest rate (24%) and December having the highest (28%).

Vehicle colour and age

average uk tyre failure rate by vehicle colour table 

Based on the data, we found that Yellow and Brown cars are the most likely to have illegal tyres, with more popular colours such as Grey and Silver featuring lower down the charts.

Unsurprisingly, younger cars are less likely to have illegal tyres. However, we found that vehicles over 10 years old are less likely to have illegal tyres than those that are between 5 and 10 years old. 

Advice from Evans Halshaw

A Safety Critical tyre is defined as having a tyre tread depth that is below 3mm, or has other damage that affects its safety, which can include bulges, cuts, or embedded foreign objects (e.g. screws).

Group Head of Aftersales, Michael Hunt, commented: “Our study has demonstrated just how common illegal tyres are in the UK revealing that one in four drivers are potentially on the roads with a safety critical tyre each day. In particular, residents in the North West of England should check their tyres regularly as locations in this region feature dominantly in the top 10 places with the highest failure rates.

“The data also highlights the importance of inspecting your vehicle on a regular basis. Look for any cuts, cracks and bulges and then make sure there is plenty of tread on the tyres. As our report shows, driving on an illegal or defective tyre could lead you to be fined up to £2,500 and three penalty points on your licence. By simply carrying out some quick tyre checks you can help to reduce your fuel bills and emissions, extend the life of your tyres, as well as ensuring that your vehicle can perform properly and safely. We also recommend booking your vehicle in for regular health checks, or VHCs, which can identify other potential safety issues.”

Book a free tyre check with Evans Halshaw

technician inspecting health of vehicle tyre

Keeping your tyres in good condition is easier than you think. We recommend starting by giving them a visual check on a regular basis (one a month is a good start). Look for any cuts, cracks and bulges and then make sure there is plenty of tread on the tyres. We offer Hands on Help tutorials if you need further help.

If you don't feel confident checking your own tyres, then you can book a free tyre health check at your nearest Evans Halshaw retailer, who will be more than happy to give them an extensive check for you.