How old is too old?

I’m thinking about buying a 2003 Mazda Miata. The car has 23,500 miles on it. The car was driven only in the summer (garaged in the winter in Michigan). The tires are original. A friend of mine tells me I would need to buy new tires due to the age of the tires and the fact that the car was garaged for long periods of time. The tires look good but I’m led to believe looks can be deceiving. If I buy this vehicle do I need to immediately buy new tires?

You’ll want to check how old the tires are. Decode the date:

I’d say at 10 years yes, 7-9 years is grey area. However, if you’re buying this Miata for sporty driving, know that old tires are hard tires, and will skid more easily.

Me, I’d replace them for that reason alone - why else buy a Miata?

The tires on the Miata are at least 8 years old and probably older. Your friend is right because tires can age just sitting unused on a shelf. The tires in this case are too old. They need to be replaced.

Although garaging will have kept the UV exposure down, age alone is bad on rubber too.
Allow for tires in your purchase budget, you’ll be glad you do.

My 79 pickup blew a tire…PARKED
( age + UV = pop! flat tire sitting in the driveway. )
With no garage I now use the tire covers sold for RVs.

Inspect the tires closely for sidewall cracks. If they pass a close visual inspection, they should be OK…Before I went on a long trip at high speeds and high temperatures I would replace them if I could afford to…“Old Tire Failure” is just not that big a problem…

Michigan does not get the intense sun and long days of, say, Arizona. I know I’m going “against the grain”, but if the tires under close examination have no cracking I’d keep them for now and replace them with good all season tires (perhaps even winter tires) in the fall.

If they have any evidence of cracking whatsoever, replace them.

The tire industry says 5 years, but in all honesty I think that number has a “safety margin” built in as well as assuming worst case conditions (Arizona parked outside), and I think the motivation to sell more tires comes into play also. If the tires are drying out you’ll see fine cracks.

I guarantee others will disagree.

Inside garage = no sun shining on them = no UV rays damaging them. I’d make sure I know how to change the tires & the spare has air, then I’d keep driving on them until they wore down.

Unless you plan to drive this car fast. Don’t go over 90 MPH.

Inside garage = no sun shining on them = no UV rays damaging them

However the ozone will seep into the garage. Better than outside, but still an issue.

Tires rot from the inside out. So a tire may look good on the outside but you can’t see what’s going on, on the inside.


Don’t overpay for this car based on low mileage.

If you plan to go racing the car, or take it out for “track day” at your local speedway then change the tires. Otherwise drive the car a bit and see how it responds and what kind of traction you are getting, this is in wet as well as dry conditions.

I don’t think the tires need replacing just on age alone.

Some of the scare stories may be from when rayon was used for tire fabric in radial tires. Rayon may have been ok for bias ply tires that would likely wear out before the rayon deteriorated. A new car that I bought in the 1980s had radial tires with rayon cords and steel belts. At least two of the tires failed at different times at about 5 years of age while I was driving and not due to punctures. They did not blow out but just went flat at low speed and were not easy to otherwise diagnose due to damage from the rim riding on the flat tires for a short distance.

Since then we have run Michelin tires on a motorhome to 10 years with no flats. 5 years to replacement is conservative, especially for a vehicle located in the northern US.

I recently traded a 13 year old car that had three of the four original tires until a couple of months before I traded it. They had no problems. The fourth was lost at about 7 or 8 years of age due to a puncture too close to the sidewall.

Your tires should be good for at least another 3 years.

Everyone worried about tires yet the far larger issue is rust. “Garage kept” means nothing if the garage is not climate controlled and the floor is sealed. Unsealed concrete absorbs and discharges moisture with climate changes. When the floor discharges moisture, the water vapor carries with it soluble corrosives from the concrete and the vapor usually condenses on the bottom of the vehicle depositing the dissolved corrosives onto the steel the car is made from. The car may look beautiful on the outside and the bottom may be rusted to the point of being worthless.

My opinion on the tires, get new ones - saving a couple bucks isn’t worth risking your life or the lives of others around you…

Too many people with too many ideas. I bought a 2002 like this, years old, low mileage, etc., and tried using the old tires. The handling was poor. I bought 4 new tires, General UHP, from, had them shipped to a local guy to install, and I’m a happy driver now. It made a big difference. Do that, change the oil, park in the warm sun a couple of hours before you put the top down so it warms up and folds easily, and you’ll be smiling all summer. These are great cars, completely reliable.

Exactly. This is my biggest issue. The dealer wants my car (2008 Mazda3 touring value sedan with 35,000 miles) and $3,000. I actually started the negotiation with offering my car and wanting to know how much money he would give me. Needing new tires would only add to the price gap. I intend to keep looking. If the car is still on his lot in a few weeks maybe I’ll check back