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

Your car maker wants to steal your spare. Don’t let them.


As this story is written many others are being written by other writers who will tell you that many new car models don’t come with a spare. While that may be true, here is another fact: Every top-selling trim of every top-selling vehicle in America does come with one. The Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Toyota Camry, Honda Civic, and we can go on and on. However, even the automakers with the top-selling vehicles are doing their best to steal your spare anyplace they can. By pulling spares out of the green vehicle trims, sports car trims, and from any special model they can get away with taking a spare tire out of.

Related Story: Here’s Why Your Tire Cannot Be Repaired

The common excuses the automakers will use to justify taking your spare is to say that “it saves weight.” But your audio speakers weigh more than the spare. They will say that it “saves space” but your vehicle likely has over 125 cubic feet of interior space. What is one cubic foot less under the cargo floor going to cost you? The dealer employee selling you a vehicle may also say, “you really don’t need a spare.” So let’s discuss that a bit. says that 27% of all roadside emergencies are tire-related. AAA’s data says that about a half-million of its members each year have a flat tire in a vehicle that does not have a spare. So, those half-million unfortunate souls get their cars towed to a repair shop.
Tire image by John Goreham
Pre-COVID, that was a big deal. Particularly on long holiday weekends, in severe weather, or when you need to take your kid to the doctor’s office pronto. Post-COVID it is a nightmare as we discovered this month in the Metro Boston area.

“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.”

Related Story: Need A Tow? New Changes Drivers Who Rely On AAA and Other Roadside Assistance Services Should Know About

It turns out that due to COVID-19 social distancing rules, AAA tow trucks will no longer allow you to ride in the cab of the vehicle to the repair shop. So you are on your own getting off the side of the highway or out of that sketchy neighborhood you are now stranded in because your automaker stole your spare.

“So, big deal call an Uber.” Easy to say, harder to do, as we also found out. Four miles from downtown Boston on a Sunday evening at 8 pm Uber had no vehicles available when we needed one.

A LOT of people get flats each year. In the United States, approximately 7 tire punctures occur every second, resulting in 220 million flat tires per year. Since there are only about 221 million drivers in the country, that is one flat for each of us on average every year. Have you noticed how many tire shops there are? That is not an accident.

Run flats help in a puncture situation, and maybe in ideal circumstances, your “tire repair kit” ridiculously substituted for your spare might help. Neither will help you if you tear a sidewall on that new ultra-low profile tire you just bought. And run-flats are pricey and unrepairable if you actually drive on them while they are flat.

Related Story: We put BMW run-flat tires to the test and give them a thumbs-down

You are in control as a consumer. When you shop for your next car, crossover, or truck insist on a spare tire or shop for a different model. That, or throw some boots in the trunk and be prepared to walk home some lonely winter night from a bad neighborhood far from home....

John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of battery thermal control designer. For 20 years he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and published numerous articles in technical journals such as Chemical Processing Magazine. In 2008 he retired from that career to chase his dream of being an auto writer. 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 the Torque News Facebook Page, and view his credentials at Linkedin

Images by John Goreham. Re-use with permission only.


Timothy Parker (not verified)    July 20, 2020 - 4:48PM

Yep, it's a problem. Many Chevy Bolt owners have added their own spare of different types, as have I. I wish GM would add at least one of the inflatable compact temporary spares, just something to allow getting to a repair shop for a more permanent fix. There are still many areas out west where there is no cell coverage, so you're really on your own there, or at the mercy of passersby.

Digitaldoc (not verified)    July 20, 2020 - 7:49PM

Wish Hyundai/Kia would read this article, and put it into action. The can of flat fix, and cheapo air compressor does not really substitute for a spare tire. Last time I had a flat the entire sidewall was blown out, and flat fix would have done nothing, but at least I had a full size spare.

Mark Day (not verified)    July 21, 2020 - 2:45AM

It's getting difficult to keep track of all the reasons to keep my 2012 vehicles and
ignore the new undesirables. Here are some of the undesirable new vehicle "features": auto stop/start, CVTs, 4-cylinder engines, cylinder deactivation, direct injection, auto/manual trans, turbos, annoying bongs & peeps reminders, run-flat tires, no spare.

Bob Foss (not verified)    September 1, 2021 - 1:07AM

In reply to by Mark Day (not verified)

All the things you mentioned are right on target. I'm 74 and started driving in the 1960s when cars were big but simple. The other thing I don't like about today's vehicles is the manufacturers don't often give you a maintenance schedule for oil changes and other things. They have a "maintenance reminder" that comes up on the dash...often thousands of miles before an oil chnage is really needed. Thanks.

Bart (not verified)    January 9, 2022 - 9:23PM

Thank you for this article!! So true! We’ve had several flats in recent years and they were all at times and locations where It would have been a nightmare to be without a spare! I just bought a RAV4 hybrid (with spare) and rejected the CRV hybrid because it has no spare. I’ve also heard that the tire repair sprays make an awful mess of the rim such that you may not find a mechanic willing to put on a new tire. Not sure if this is true but don’t care to find out!