/ Motoring

Only a third of new cars come with a spare wheel

Car wheel with a puncture

I’ve learnt that the demise of the spare wheel concerns you just as much as it concerns me. And our latest investigation has found even fewer spare wheels are being made available as standard on new cars.

We analysed the specifications of 8,755 mainstream new car models on the market currently. And we found just 29.5% come with a space-saver or full-size spare wheel as standard. The majority (50%) come with a tyre repair kit, while the remaining 20.5% have run-flat tyres fitted. See the table at the bottom of this post to find out how individual manufacturers are doing.

It seems that the manufacturers’ efforts to make vehicles more fuel efficient is driving this shift from full-size spare wheels to puncture repair kits. But that doesn’t necessarily make the cars more cost effective, as we discovered in our recent spare wheel investigation.

The true cost of puncture repair kits

Many new car models now come with an emergency tyre sealant and compressor/inflator pack instead of a spare wheel. The tyre sealant has to be squirted into the tyre itself and is designed to plug the damaged area of the tyre, allowing the motorist to drive to the nearest tyre centre to have it replaced or repaired.

So we contacted five franchised dealers of the five car brands offering the lowest number of new car models with spare wheels included as standard. We asked these dealers how much it would cost to replace a canister of tyre sealant.

Our research found that replacing a one-use tyre sealant canister can cost up to £50. See our table at the bottom of this post to find out the range of costs from different manufacturers. Yet the cost of selecting a full spare wheel as an option when you purchase a car can be less – as little as £20 in the case of Mini.

To add to the case for spare wheels, in our latest survey, 60% of you with spare wheels said tyre punctures had cost you less than £50 to fix, while 55% of those with puncture repair kits said it had cost more than £100.

It’s also important to bear in mind that many tyre centres will not repair a tyre that has been filled with any sealant. Some water-based sealants – like those offered by Honda – can be flushed out to allow the tyre to be repaired, though you will have to visit a franchised dealer to have this work carried out.

Spare wheels need to make a comeback

Ultimately, using a puncture repair kit will usually mean you having to buy a new tyre. And with the condition of UK roads worsening, punctures are becoming more frequent. The RAC told us they attended 340,000 puncture related incidents in 2012 – an increase of 17,000 on 2011. In fact, of the 670 people who have completed our spare wheel survey so far, more than half have had a puncture in the last three years.

We’ve already met with some car-makers to discuss the future of the spare wheel. However, the response so far is that they haven’t received enough feedback from owners voicing their concerns about the lack of spare wheels as standard.

And yet, 1,393 of you responded to our poll last year, with 93% saying spare wheels should be offered as standard on all cars. Only 1% were in favour of having a tyre repair kit as standard.

So if you haven’t completed it already, please fill in our spare wheel survey. It only takes a few minutes, and we can use your responses, as well as your comments below, to show car-makers that people still want spare wheels included as a no-cost option on all new cars.

Percentage of new cars with spare wheels

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Click table images to enlarge.


A repair kit will not work on a badly damaged tyre and whilst you will need to replace it, at least having a spare will get you to the garage.
I worry about the space-saver wheels – they can surely not behave well, particularly on the front (steering) wheels, and even at the 50mph maximum speed normally suggested they cannot be as safe as a proper size wheel particularly in the wet. Is there test data to show if performance is significantly degraded?
I don’t buy the weight-saving argument – we can surely economise on mpg (l/100km), if we bother, by driving technique more effectively than not carrying a spare wheel? It’s really about cost, isn’t it?
Make repair kits and small spares a (cheaper) option but have full-size spares as the default is my vote.

John Whitehead says:
31 May 2013

Contrary to popular belief, the rear is the worst place to have a tyre that is degraded in some way, be that run-flat, low inflation pressure or, when it’s wet, low tread depth. A degraded tyre is likely to give less grip, and if that is at the rear, is more likely to lead to loss of rear end adhesion and a spinning car. Incidentally, statistically one is more likely to experience a puncture at the rear that at the front.

I too would prefer a spare wheel, and a full-size one at that, although, it must be said, that if one suffers a puncture on a cold wet night, it’s probably easier to administer an aerosol sealant and inflator than change the wheel. For those who subscribe to having a spare wheel, how often do you check that it is properly inflated?

Bill Rundle says:
31 May 2013

Of course, car drivers want their new car to have a spare wheel. Manufacturers, GET WISE.

Totally agree with John Whitehead about tyres with the greatest tread depth needing to be on the rear. I always buy my Michelin tyres from Costco and they always put new tyres on the rear if only replacing two. I had to ask my Saab main dealer – when he was alive! – to change the wheels back as they had put the wheels with the greatest depth on to the front.

Continental Driver says:
30 May 2013

Following your article concerning spare wheels, I agree with all your comments. Full size spare wheels should be provided by manufacturers. As you say additional wheels can be purchased, but most cars do not have a designated area where they can be stored, so if you do decide to carry one with you it has to take up boot space. Not ideal if you drive abroad, as those are the trips where you are most likely to need boot space for luggage. Also, I have found that run flat tyres are not always available, particularly in France.
Finally, I have a BMW X3 fitted with 17 inch wheels and winter tyres with an inflator kit. With the advent of summer I find that these wheels, although supplied by my BMW dealer are not a size recognised by the tyre trade and that I am required to buy my summer tyres through BMW and that only Pirelli make these tyres.

Dave says:
31 May 2013

Continental driver is spot on. I too have a BMW X3 (16″ wheels) supplied with aerosol gloop kit. I knew that I needed a spare tyre as our lanes are littered with flints that wreak havoc on rubber that cannot be fixed with an aerosol. Despite what I was told, when the spare arrived I found it doesn’t fit into a wheel well in the boot ! The clutter is really annoying and I will never buy another new car without physically trying the spare wheel storage. When I complained, the arrogant response from BMW HQ telling me how lucky I was in not having to change tyres anymore appalled me. I had two punctures in the first 10 weeks of ownership – thank heavens for the spare. The wretched car doesn’t even have a jack included. I would have hoped when paying BMW prices, you might just get a choice.
This is my first and last BMW & has been a real disappointment due to “BMW knows best” attitude – Oh No you don’t ! If weight of vehicle and load is an issue for BMW, stop selling the cars to fat folk like me.

In 50 years of motoring, I have never had a blow out. I have probably had 2 or 3 very slow punctures that just needed a few pumps to get back up to pressure. I’ve never had one that required an immediate change of wheel.

I’m more than happy to gain the space and not have to drag around all that extra weight. I’ve got an 8-year old Skoda Fabia Estate with its original Pirelli P6000 weighing down the back end. I’d rather reclaim the space because that’s why I bought an estate.

If you want to reclaim the space you can do that. Just leave the tire at home. At least you have the option.

All you have to do is when you have got the car at the right price when it comes to sighn on the line say not unless you put a real spare with the car i did this not only got 1 but a alloy like the other 4 i lost a bit of space but i got what i i wanted

Michael Talbot says:
31 May 2013

Spare wheel, space saver wheel, is a must. Having a silly aerosol of gunk is nothing but a plot to get more money from our pockets. A spare wheel is safe ,convenient and essential. I would rather change a flat instead of filling the tyre with goo,which probably makes the tyre useless ,instead of being able to have the puncture safely repaired.

D. Pattenden says:
31 May 2013

We had one of those allegedly space save wheels with our c-max. very restrictive at 50mph tops, especially if on a motorway. Bring back the spare wheel which matches the one’s already on the car.

We didn’t discover the cuckoo until we’d needed to replace the tyre on a long journey – not the best time to discover a lengthy time addition to sort the problem!

A spare tyre or as in my case a space saving trye is in my opinion a must. When I had my last puncture the nail which had done the damage had done so in two places along the sidewall and if I had only a repair kit with me I could not have completed the repair myself as I understand that in most cases a sidewall repair is not permitted. Incidentally my car a Toyota Yaris was first registered in 2001 and was supplied with a space saving tyre so this is not something new.

Nigel Megitt says:
31 May 2013

I agree that cars must be available with a reliable alternative in case of tyre or wheel damage. Wheels can be damaged by potholes, an increasing problem, and there’s only a limited range of punctures that can be fixed even temporarily by the repair kits.

I won’t buy a car without a spare wheel. If I’d have had a bad puncture and no spare wheel on my holiday driving across Norway a couple of years ago I’d have been completely stuck potentially hours or days away from help. These conditions aren’t that unusual and there’s a reason why spare wheels and tyres are commonplace.

The one good thing about the repair kits though is that they come with air pumps that plug into the cigarette lighter socket. All cars should have one!

I’m totally averse to not having a spare wheel. I live in a very rural area and it could take at least a day to get hold of a replacement tyre. So having a spare wheel is essential and I’d prefer it to be the normal spec wheel not a space saver.
I’m now looking for a newer car and frustrated with this additional complication.

Nicki C says:
31 May 2013

I really worry about run flat tyres having seen so much bad press about them. I recently bought a RAV4 06 plate and have since researched into them and the general concensus seems to be that they don’t work as well in the snow, have more punctures, are 2x the price to buy and wear out faster. I’m really concerned now and it’s making me think seriuosly of selling this car. It scares me not having a spare too and they are supposed to be harder to get hold of so even if you make it to a garage, they may not have them in stock and people have had to stay in hotels for 2 nights whilst they are sourced. Does anyone know anything about this? Can I change to normal tyres? Would be gratefull for any advice on this.

Peter Brewer says:
31 May 2013

Contact Honest John in the Saturday Telegraph or look at his Website. Some really good stuff here.

In view of the worsening conditions of our roads and the danger of not only punctures but damage to the wheel itself a proper full spare whee should be provided by all manufacturers as a safety precaution.
Tyre sidewall damage caused by continual kerb scuffing cannot be provided by tyre repair kits and on a long journeys a RELIABLE spare wheel should always be provided by the car maker.
A tyre blow-out obviously requires the immediate fitting of a spare wheel.

I completely agree. Having a proper spare tyre is essential. Common sense tells you this. The goo-filled aerosols cannot deal with a sidewall blow-out. The government should introduce a law making it illegal for any car not to carry a spare tyre. But government usually have no common sense and no doubt they only listen to the car manufactuers lobby.

My wife had to flat tyres within a month of each other on her SEAT Altea and the tyre on both occasions was shredded. And luckily kind RAC guy took her to garage and tyre was replaced.
I will not buy a car without a spare be it full size or spacesaver.

Ladro says:
31 May 2013

I Have recently bought a New Kia Motor Car from the main dealer,.
It has a full size spare wheel, and if I Get a puncture at anytime, they will repair it for FREE.
Now thats Service for you. Plus a 7 year warranty. KEEP UP!! THE REST OF YOU MANUFACTURERS>..

Irene Durant says:
31 May 2013

You were very lucky. I just “happened” to get a puncture on my way home from just purchasing a year-old Kia Soul 2, and when I informed the dealership, they said that it probably happened on the way home, so there’s nothing they could do – so much for the 7 year warranty! Needless to say, I have since changed the dealership for my future servicing.

RogerW says:
31 May 2013

I have a Mercedes C series which comes with a “space saver”. When I looked in the boot, the depth of the spare wheel well was far greater than required for the spare fitted. I asked the salesman whether a full size would fit. He didn’t know, so we measured it. It fitted. I said that the spare was clearly not a space saver. I also observed that should you have a puncture, then you need to put the punctured tyre somewhere. Again he had not thought of this. He then suggested that it was to save weight. I asked whether anyone has checked whether a full size alloy wheel was heavier than a 3/4 steel wheel. I doubt there is much in it. So it must come down to cost.

Since I intended to use the car in France I wanted to have a full sized spare so I could travel at normal speed for the rest of the journey. I bought one to match the rest of the car and it cost me less than £300. In a £20k+ car that is peanuts. I bet the difference at manufacture would be less still.

Why are manufacturers doing this?

Neil says:
31 May 2013

Yet again the sheer cost factor comes into play. As a long term salesman the concern of driving all over the UK without a spare beggers belief! It might be fine if in a city or close to services but in the highlands or middle of nowhere anything other than a small puncture makes these kits a non entity.
The lack of provision of a proper spare also smacks of profit building as they can charge through the nose for a real spare. The biggest question for me is whether a car supplied without real life provision for a serious puncture is “Is the item fit for purpose?” I would say NO!

Margaret Murphy says:
31 May 2013

I have been driving for forty years and fortunately have had few punctures. However, I have been dismayed to find that in recent years the spare wheel was first replaced by a smaller “get you home wheel” and now by an even greater disaster called a self sealing puncture repair kit, which is extremely difficult to use and more often than not of no use at all. I wish car manufacturers would come to their senses and accept that we motorists are not in the least interested in new fangled so called innovations, which in the long term only end up causing us money in an increasingly economically stretched climate, and provide us with what we crave for, a good old fashioned spare tyre! Please think of the customer first and what we want. Remember it is us who buy the cars, not the tyre or sealant manufacturers.

cheryl says:
31 May 2013

Interesting subject as I bought a new Seat mii sport. I ordered a spare wheel as an extra. It came without the puncture kit. I protested now I have both.
Spare wheels are sometimes omitted (full size ones) due to export weight restrictions but hey dude I don’t live in the states.
We always in this country have to conform to someone else
Look after our own for goodness sake!!!!

I would never buy a new car that did not have a spare wheel. I even thought twice about buying my current C3 Picasso when told it only had a space saving spare and not a full one. When I purchase my next car if there is not spare there will be no sale.

My 2002 Honda HR-V had a smaller spare which, when used, compromised the car’s handling. My 2006 Honda CR-V had a full size ‘spare’ wheel attached to the rear door. I liked that. My 2010 CR-V has a reduced size ‘spare’ under the boot space (= less storage) in excahange for a ‘hatch’ opening rear door. I should prefer a full sized spare … though, to date, they have not been required. Could be worse off, though, with a repair ‘kit’, I think.

Nigel G says:
31 May 2013

I resolved many years ago that I would never buy a car without a full size spare wheel. I like doing long journeys at night when the roads are clearer, particularly when driving through France. The last puncture I had resulted in the total destruction of the tyre. A can of repair fluid would have been useless and a space saver would have got me 50 miles, not helpful when the garages are shut at night. When I bought my current Skoda Octavia Estate I told them that I would not buy it unless it came with a full size spare wheel – something the dealer was clearly used to – and they just gave me one. So I suggest that if you are buying a new car and want a full size spare, negotiate the deal and then say that you will not go ahead without a free full size spare