Spare tire image by John Goreham
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Shopping Guide 2021 – Why You Should Demand A Spare Tire With Your New Vehicle

As automakers look for ways to cut corners, a spare tire is more important than ever. Here’s our 2021 guide to spare tires for shoppers buying new.
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We’ve heard all manner of excuses as to why some vehicles lack a compact or full-size spare tire. All of them ring hollow to our ears. A common excuse is that the spare weighs too much. This seems ridiculous given that a spare tire weighs less than the added pounds a panoramic sunroof adds, or a premium audio system adds. Another excuse we sometimes hear is that you don’t really need a spare. After all, how often do you get a flat? Using this logic, every safety system in your car is really unnecessary, but we all know that logic is silly. Numerous sources indicate flat tires are common, and one source says that there are 220 million flat tires per year in America. About one for every driver. If you still have doubts, call your local tire retailer and ask how their repair business is doing.

Related: Why You Really Do Need A Spare Tire - Particularly In Light of COVID-19 Changes

Top-Selling Models Have Spares For 2021
The truth is, nearly every top-selling model of vehicle in America offers a trim with a spare tire. The Ford F-150, Toyota RAV4, Toyota Camry, and Toyota Civic all top their categories, and all of the top-selling trims have a spare tire included. We counted nine Honda Civic trims with a spare. This negates pretty much any excuse a manufacturer can offer up as to why a spare tire is not possible. If the highest-volume models and trims have one, obviously, it is a possibility.

Related Story: How To Check and Maintain the Spare Tire In Your Toyota Highlander Before It’s Too Late

Many Green Vehicles Lack Spares – But Not All
Green vehicles such as hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and battery-electric vehicles often lack spares. The reason is money. Green vehicles are mainly loss-leaders for automakers. They lose money or make very little money on these high-tech fuel sippers, so they delete every possible feature they can to get closer to profitability. You won’t find a spare tire in a Tesla, yet if you check out a Facebook club dedicated to Tesla vehicles you will find that owners are speaking about flat tires. One owner recently posted this comment in a Tesla forum, “Broke down and bought the modern tires spare kit last night after getting a flat in the middle of nowhere and the Tesla rep couldn’t find anyone to tow me. The fix a flat compressor goo thing they sell didn’t work as well. So it turned into a 5-hour ordeal. This was the 3rd time I’ve had tire issues.” Had this owner had a compact spare, it could have been quickly mounted by the owner, AAA, or any roadside assistance provider, and the owner could have taken his time to deal with the flat on the next business day. Imagine being stranded for 5 hours with your family by the side of the road in winter.

In one Honda Clarity forum, an owner posted this comment, “I just got my seventh flat tire on my Clarity. The car is a wonderful dream except for the incessant flat tires, which I cannot explain. Thank you, Uber, for taking me home.” Do you really want to have your car towed and go home in a ride-share vehicle because of a flat or damaged tire?

Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE Spare Tire Image By John Goreham

One company that makes popular green vehicles of many types is Toyota. We recently tested the company’s third-generation electric RAV4, the RAV4 Prime. This amazing vehicle earns a 94 MPGe rating and can travel for up to 42 miles on electricity or 600 miles as a hybrid. Toyota puts a spare tire into every one of them. That’s our photo from the test vehicle we had. Don’t settle for a green vehicle without a spare tire. If you have any doubts about needing one, head over to the forums where owners lament the fact that they bought a car without one.

Performance Vehicles, Sports Cars, And Spares
One sad result of lightweighting in performance vehicles is that the spare is often eliminated by the manufacturer. This despite the same designers adding super-large alloy wheels that every racer knows slows down a vehicle’s acceleration and lengthens braking distances. Miata owners know all too well that a flat tire can mean a tow, and nobody wants a 2,000-pound alloy sports car they love being winched up onto a flatbed. As our image above shows, owners go to extreme lengths to try to add back a spare.

However, not all performance vehicles lack a spare tire. We recently tested the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat. This vehicle has over 700 hp, and can accelerate to 60 MPH in just 3.5 seconds. Dodge included the spare. When you shop for your next performance vehicle, ask yourself if you’d like to see it being towed away from that remote mountain road you dream of driving it on. And how you will get home with no Uber service available in the backcountry.

Beware The Spare Tire Bait And Switch
Sadly, some manufacturers place the spare tire into just some of the trims of the vehicles they make. For example, the Hyundai Kona Ultimate does not have a spare tire, but lower-cost trims do. The same is true of the new Genesis GV80. And Honda deletes the spare tire from its pricey Accord Hybrid and CR-V Hybrid, but puts one in all the other lower-cost trims of those vehicles.

Kia Seltos spare tire image by John Goreham

So what can you do if the trim you want lacks a spare? Buy another model like it from another brand. The Kia Seltos is very similar to the Hyundai Kona. We tested the top trim, and it had a spare. The Toyota Camry hybrid is very similar to the Accord Hybrid, and it comes with a spare tire.

What About Full-Size Matching Spare Tires?
While a full-size matching spare is unusual, it is not yet extinct. We tested a Jeep Gladiator and found it had a matching spare tire. One of our colleagues was testing a Subaru Outback Onyx Edition XT with his family in the vehicle this past month and had a flat. That model and trim had a full-size matching spare. We tested the all-new Ford Bronco Sport and it also has a full-size spare on a real rim (image above)

In many cases, a compact, also called temporary, spare tire will suffice. If you damage a tire that cannot be sealed with Fix-A-Flat or an inflator kit, it will get you home, or to a tire shop. And best of all, you can take your time. Driving time is not limited on a compact spare, though miles and speeds are.

As you consider your options for 2021 vehicles, take a moment in your search and check out whether the model and trim includes a spare tire. If it does not, we suggest expanding your search. As our examples above prove, there are vehicles in almost every category with spare tires, despite news to the contrary.

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. Following his engineering program, John also completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin


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Comments

I agree with this 100%. I really want a Lexus UX250h but the lack of spare tire is a huge concern because I often drive in remote areas by myself. It would be really scary being stranded. The run flats that come on the car provide some protection, but I feel it’s a false sense of security as you can still have a blow out and be stranded. Also, not all tire shops have the run flats in stock all of the time. So it’s either the Lexus or Kia Niro, which does have a spare tire option available.
No the luggage won’t fit I had to put in a full size spare. The luggage didn’t work when when I had a blowout.
Given the current condition of roads and highways in America automobile makers who choose not to even offer at least the option of including a spare tire aren't concerned for the safety of their potential customers, nor consumer friendly, but instead completely out of touch with reality.
I bought a new CRV in 2007 and still have it now in 2021. I really wanted to buy a Honda CRV hybrid and keep it for 12 - 15 years. I'm disappointed that the hybrid doesn't come with a spare tire. If I buy one separately it will cost $400 - $500 including the jack and it will take up trunk space. What really worries and deters me is the hybrid battery. I've read that the hybrid batteries can cost $2000 or more. When the car gets close to the battery warranty ending no one will want to buy the car and it's value will be decreased . And if I plan to keep the car beyond 10 years I will have to anticipate replacing the hybrid battery myself. The money saved in gas will be lost with battery replacement and a spare tire or towing costs.
A large or rim puncture flat cannot be fixed by goo and so you'll be stranded, a mini spare will allow anyone to limp home regardless of the damage to the original tire. I hear cars with LSD differentials can be damaged by the mini tire so a rear flat requires moving one of the front tires to the back, and putting the spare on the front. Run flats are only good for about 50mi at 50 mph, then it starts to deteriorate quickly. After 50 mi, it won't be safe to drive at all, I know it happened to me, at about 60 mi it starts grinding on the rim and will damage the wheel, regardless once a run flat is run flat the tire has to changed, a huge expense. I don't know if makers tried to kill the spare due to its cost. Most new wireless car keys cost more. Aftermarket mini spares run $100 tops, a full size spare with el cheapo rim is about the same. I think it was just bad engineering, that goo, if it works, also expires, so needs periodic changing. Why fix what ain't broke? I guess car makers thought they went from full sized, to mini size, to glue, all was well?
My idiot Kia dealer in FL (no shock) told me with a straight face they got rid of spares to fix mileage and you're supposed to GET THE CAR TOWED when you have a flat since the air pump POS probably won't work. They want $400 to order a spare donut tire and can't guarantee it'll ever show up. Yeah, no thanks, I'm trading the car for another company NOT KIA.