Should Your Car Have a Spare Tire?
Remember when you could depend on your new car coming with a large spare tire in back? Not anymore. By 2015, 136 car models came standard without a spare included. Since then, others have let go of the spare in favor of more lightweight alternatives.
Prepare for the Unexpected
Imagine driving alone at night when you feel a thump under your car. You quickly realize you have a punctured tire and pull over. No one expects a flat, but it’s necessary to plan for these types of circumstances. Will you be able to change the tire yourself? If not, what’s your plan B?
It may not be at the top of your wish list when car shopping, but whether to carry a spare is important to consider so you’re not left stranded with a blowout on the side of the road. As newer alternatives emerge, whether to carry a spare is a decision that requires today’s drivers to consider a few different factors.
Consider the Big Picture
Many standard vehicles still come with a full-size spare tire, but having one is no longer a given in a new vehicle. Their availability varies by model. From Tesla and Kia to Hyundai, Nissan, and Jeep, more and more automakers are putting out spare-free models.
About 35 percent of cars come from the factory without any spare at all – a likely money saver for automakers. The main reason given for this omission is that removing the extra 25-30 pounds, including the jack and tools, may slightly improve a vehicle’s fuel efficiency. Another potential advantage: the extra space gives you a bit more storage room.
Factor in Fuel Efficiency
As mentioned above, smaller, more fuel-efficient cars are less likely to come with a spare. So, you may end up choosing between a spare and the more fuel-efficient models on the market. By 2018, the Toyota Prius had swapped its traditional spare for a tire repair kit. If you’re willing to buy a used car, though, you may be able to find one with a spare.
What’s a Tire Inflator Kit?
The main alternative to spare tires these days is the tire inflator and sealant kit, which has replaced spare tires in millions of cars in the U.S. These kits allow some flats to be fixed without a tire change using an air hose and air compressor.
But keep in mind that tire inflator kits can only be used with a puncture in the center tread and if the object remains in the tire. The kits can’t be used, for example, when the damage is caused by a sidewall, blowout, pothole, or larger puncture. Another option is to buy a spare and tool kit at a car dealer or tire retailer. The cost ranges from $50 for a basic donut to a couple hundred or more for something more substantial.
What’s Your Roadside Assistance Situation?
Each year, AAA receives some four million calls for roadside assistance due to flat tires. Roadside service is a convenient option for anyone who spends a lot of time on the road, but it may make a difference whether or not you keep a spare on hand. With one, you can get help changing it, possibly free of charge. Without a spare, you may need to get towed to the nearest auto shop, which will be costlier and more time-consuming.
Adjust Your Driving with a Spare Tire On
Keep in mind that you can’t drive off into the sunset with a spare on. There are few things to know about driving with most spare tires:
- Avoid the highway. Don’t drive more than 50 miles per hour.
- Don’t leave it on. Most spares are intended for temporary use. Just leave it on until you get to a mechanic or find a way to switch it out for a standard tire.
- It won’t match your other tires. The tires are typically smaller with less tread. Speeding or leaving it on too long could cause damage to your car or risk an accident.
Consider Buying a Full-Size Spare
Buying a full-size spare can be a smart long-term solution for people who frequently drive over rough terrain or for long distances. It provides extra safety to know you won’t be hobbled if you have a blowout and can’t get help. Some full-size spares can be used as a permanent replacement. In this case, remember to keep an eye on the tread and include it in your tire rotation schedule.
If you’re car shopping, a quick web search will let you know about each model’s spare tire situation. Also, contact your auto insurance provider to ensure your new car will be automatically covered and to make sure your policy includes roadside assistance. And consider learning how to change a spare if you haven’t already.