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Troubled Treads

penny test results across America
how the penny test works
Getting work done on your car can be a long and tedious task. The idea of waiting hours in a shop for work that doesn’t seem urgent creates a lot of procrastinators – especially when it comes to tires. Replacing tires in the case of a flat is an obvious move, but when tires seem to be running fine, many forgo the recommended replacement in exchange for saving a chunk of change.
Putting off a tire change may seem harmless, but worn out treads pose a considerable threat to your safety. Without good treads, your car can’t grip the road the way it needs in order to safely maneuver adverse weather conditions, increasing the risk of collision. So how many vehicles are being supported by insufficient treads? We conducted the penny tread test on 232 vehicles across three major U.S. cities to find out.

Passing the Penny Test

penny test results across America
Fifty percent of all vehicles tested in our research had insufficient treads. However, failing the penny tread test wasn’t evenly distributed across vehicle types. Trucks had the highest pass rate at 71 percent, slightly more than convertibles and coupes. Wagons have the lowest pass rate of all vehicle types, with only 20 percent passing the tread test.
The distribution isn’t equal across tire locations either. Although existing research says front tires wear out more quickly due to turning, our study found the opposite. Right rear tires were the most worn down, with 35 percent failing the penny tread test, followed by left rear tires with 31 percent failing. More than 70 percent of both front tires passed the test – the front left being the least worn down of all four locations.

Check Your Treads

It only takes a penny and a few seconds to test the tread of your tires. Catching wear and tear early and not putting off replacement can help protect you and your vehicle. Taking care of your treads isn’t the only way to take care of your car, though.
Having the best auto insurance adds another layer of protection for you and your vehicle in the event of an accident. At Cheap Car Insurance, we can help you find the lowest insurance rates on the market. Visit us at to compare coverage options for free and ensure you’re getting the most out of your policy without breaking the bank.


We conducted the penny tread test on 232 vehicles across three major U.S. cities. Tires in which the tread did not extend beyond the head of Abraham Lincoln were defined as a fail. In an analysis of pass and failure rates for total vehicles or vehicle type, tests in which at least one tire had insufficient treads were defined as a fail.
It is possible that with additional vehicles tested, we could have gained more insight into this population.

Fair Use Statement

Worried your tires won’t meet President Lincoln’s standard? Feel free to share the results of our research with your audience for any noncommercial use. Just don’t forget to link back to this page to give the authors proper credit, though.

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