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.
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.
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?
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.
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