Doing the Math: Over a Quarter of New Cars Do Not Come With a Spare Tire

Published on October 19, 2017

It always happens when you aren’t expecting it. You’re cruising along in your automobile, listening to the radio and making wonderful time. Then, all of a sudden, the steering feels odd — there is an overabundance of vibration and the car keeps pulling to one side.

You’ve got a flat tire.

Doing the Math: Over a Quarter of New Cars Do Not Come With a Spare Tire

Annoying to be sure. Fortunately, this isn’t your first rodeo and you pull off to swap the punctured rubber with a spare. However, if you own a brand new car, you might be disappointed to learn there’s decent chance it doesn’t even have one. According to a recent study conducted by the American Automobile Association, 28 percent of 2017 model year vehicles aren’t equipped with spare tires — leaving you breaking out the compressed air and sealant or calling for a tow truck.

In 2016, AAA said it was called by more than 450,000 motorists who were stranded without a spare. The reason for the missing rubber was attributed to manufacturers wanting to save weight and bolster government-mandated fuel efficiency. Those weight savings have to come from somewhere and, since spare tires go unused 85 percent of the time, it’s a tempting item to pull from a model without anyone noticing. That is, until it’s needed.

While fix-a-flat solutions abound, they’re not always applicable. I once handed over the keys of my Crown Victoria to a friend while on a road trip and he immediately made contact with road debris so gnarly that it left a nasty gash in the wheel. No amount of green goop and bottled air could remedy that particular issue, so we replaced the ruined tire with a full-sized spare. However, that opportunity to bond over lug nuts could have been a long and uncomfortable wait for the tow truck — followed by an overnight interlude before the vehicle could be serviced — under different circumstances.

“Having a flat tire can be a nuisance for drivers, but not having a spare could put them in an even more aggravating situation,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of automotive engineering and repair. “This can turn the relatively routine process of changing a tire at the roadside into an inconvenient and costly situation that requires a tow to a repair facility.”

“With low-profile tires and the elimination of a spare tire, many newer vehicles are especially vulnerable to roadside tire trouble,” Nielsen continued. “AAA urges drivers to make it a priority to check their vehicle’s equipment and know what to do if faced with a flat tire.”

We’d go one step further and recommend purchasing a model that comes equipped with a fifth wheel if possible. Of course, if you’re fine with waiting it out on the side of the road, you don’t have to own a spare. But, given the option, why wouldn’t you?

AAA has a comprehensive list of vehicles from the current model year that details spare tire status, if you’re in the market for a new ride. While the majority of autos still offer backup rubber as an option, spares tend to be missing on electric vehicles and are a rarity on certain brands — BMW and Mercedes-Benz being the most noticeable.

Many might make the claim that spares are unnecessary, as the average driver doesn’t even know how to change a tire anymore. This isn’t actually the case. According to a secondary study, AAA estimates 80 percent of drivers are hip to the motions required to swap out bum rubber. However, even if those metrics seem a little high, it doesn’t change the fact that having a spare is more useful than not having one.

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Doing the Math: Over a Quarter of New Cars Do Not Come With a Spare Tire
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