/ Motoring

Car spare wheels: why they’re a dying breed

Almost 23,500 of AA’s callouts each year relate to its members using tyre repair kits, with most phoning because they’re not confident using them. That’s why we want spare wheels to at least be a no-cost option on cars.

My last Conversation about spare wheels resonated with many of you. More than 400 comments were made, and the vast majority were fighting the corner of the spare wheel. So I think now is a good time for an update.

We’ve now launched a Spare wheels survey so you can let us know about your experiences and opinions on the matter.

And since the previous Convo was published in April, we’ve been in talks with the AA and carmakers about puncture repair kits and (the lack of) spare wheels.

What the AA says

When we approached the AA to talk about how their members deal with tyre repair kits and spare wheels, it told us:

‘In most cases, the member is not happy about using the sealant and would rather ask a patrol for help. When the patrol arrives, the driver has not even attempted to use it, as most expect there to be a spare in the boot.

‘We understand why some manufacturers don’t supply spare wheels as standard, but it can make things quite difficult for drivers and our patrols. We can get members back on the road much faster if the car has a suitable spare.’

What car manufacturers say

Of the mainstream car brands available in the UK, just Hyundai, Mercedes, Ssangyong, Toyota and VW offer spare wheels in 90% or more of their entire current model range. At the opposite end of the spectrum, BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Mini, Skoda and Subaru all don’t offer a spare at all, instead opting for a puncture repair kit.

Here are just a few responses we got from manufacturers when we questioned them about these numbers:

BMW: ‘Most BMWs now come with run-flat tyres as standard. This, in theory, makes the spare wheel redundant as the ‘flat’ tyre can be driven on safely until it can be changed.’

Skoda: ‘We use this puncture repair kit in our overall strive for environmentally friendly car operation to decrease weight and improve efficiency.’

VW: ‘Our customers expect a Volkswagen to have a spare wheel, not a repair kit. It also helps to keep consumers happier in the event of a puncture if they have a spare wheel.’

Check for a spare wheel before you buy

Many of you asked if we could give information about whether a model is available with a spare wheel in our reviews. Well, we already do.

If you’re a Which? member, once you’re in a car review, click on the ‘Model finder’ tab, select the spec you’re looking for and scroll down to the section on ‘Standard equipment’. When you select ‘Wheels’ this will tell you if the car comes with a spare wheel as standard or not.

And if you’re buying used, make sure you check under the boot floor or the underside of the car for a spare wheel. If there is one, make sure there’s plenty of tread on the tyre and all the equipment to change the wheel over – including the jack – is present.

We think spare wheels should come as standard (and for free), or at least as a no-cost option. What do you expect carmakers to offer when it comes to a remedy for a punctured tyre?

What should carmakers offer as a remedy for a punctured tyre?

A spare wheel should come as standard with all cars (79%, 1,053 Votes)

A space-saver wheel or run-flat tyre should come as standard (15%, 203 Votes)

A spare wheel should be an optional extra (2%, 32 Votes)

I don’t mind what carmakers offer (2%, 23 Votes)

A puncture repair kit is fine (1%, 16 Votes)

A space-saver wheel or run-flat tyre should be an optional extra (1%, 13 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,343

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Brenda's Lad says:
31 December 2012

I have a new Skoda Superb on order. It has no spare wheel, but does have space for a full-size spare. My supplying-dealer has confirmed that the spare in my current Octavia will fit the studs on the Superb and that I can keep it for that purpose – so problem solved !

Lawrence A. says:
2 January 2013

Brenda’s Lad…
Don’t forget – If the dealer is not supplying the spare wheel, then he has no obligation to supply the jack or wheel brace.
If you are trading the Octavia in, you need to keep the wheel-changing tools as well, else you will be up a well known creek without a paddle. Or a jack. Or a spanner. Check that the jack is rated for the bigger car.

Sneaky, ain’t they?


In addition to the need to check that the jack will bear the weight of the new car it is important to check that the design is suitable for the jacking points.

DavidD says:
2 January 2013

BMW – silly talk! Who really wants to run on a “run-flat” tyre until it is convenient to repair it?
SKODA – plain silly talk. How many mpg will the absence of a spare wheel add, and at the cost of the reassurance of a PROPER spare wheel. We have had a Skoda Fabia for six years and a great little car it is, but good bye Skoda if you want to save a few bucks by not providing what the vast majority of us think is a NECESSITY. Come on you dealers you are in a good position to put pressure on all these manufacturers!

PaulA says:
2 January 2013

Just taken delivery of a new Skoda CitiGo (adding to our Skoda family – we already have a Yeti). Paid £50 for spare wheel which sits neatly inside the boot below the boot floor so takes up no extra room at all. No such luck with our Yeti though – £250 for a spare and new floor, taking about eight inches of the base of the boot, but having had two punctures (only one repairable) we did not have much of a choice. Am hoping that Skoda redesign the boot to take (and to provide) a full sized spare in the Yeti for when we replace in a couple of years time.


I assume that the width of modern tyres is the main reason why manufacturers provide space-saver wheels or no spare at all. I cannot see this changing unless fuel economy becomes more important in marketing cars.

johannes says:
9 January 2013

Far be it for me to defend the car industry BUt I drive a merc -i think it has a get u home tyre like my old calibra and saab sport BUT we all want a good deal on a car when we buy and good tyres as recommended by the manufacturers cost a lot – c. £150 plus the petrol/diesel cost of lugging them around. I assume these blow up kits are idiot proof so what’s the problem? – wouldn’t worry me if i drive a car that needs one. seems silly for 5 billion vehicles to be driving around the planet with tyres that usually get pulped when the car dies.

Lawrence A. says:
9 January 2013

Hi Johannes. Mind if I address your comments?
1. You THINK your Merc has a get-u-home tyre? Might be a good idea to check what’s in the boot before you need to use it!
2. Good tyres as recommended cost a lot. True. They cost a lot more if you have to buy them as an optional extra. Dealers make big bucks on optional extras.
3. It really doesn’t cost that much more in fuel to carry a wheel and tyre around. Consider: How heavy is the spare wheel? How heavy is a Mercedes? How heavy are you? Your luggage? Your shopping? Your golf clubs? Your wife/partner/boyfriend/mistress? 50 litres of fuel? Everything is relative. The additional weight of an extra wheel is negligible compared to the car and its contents.
4. You assume that a puncture kit is foolproof? Wrong. They don’t fix big punctures, blow-outs or sidewall damage. Sometimes they fail to discharge their payload at all.
5. 5 billion vehicles with tyres that get pulped when the vehicle dies. In fact far more tyres will be shredded after being injected with gunge because the repairers and fitters refuse to repair a gunged tyre. A clean tyre with a puncture can often be repaired, and also a reputable breaker’s yard will recover and resell any spare wheels they find in a decent condition.
Sorry, but I believe that the car industry’s defence on the spare wheel topic is riddled with great big holes.

graham says:
10 January 2013

i couldnt have put it better myself. well done!

Brenda's Lad says:
10 January 2013

My new Skoda Superb was delivered with both a gunge/compressor kit AND a steel spare wheel exactly the same size and weight as the alloy spare I had kept back from the traded-in Octavia. Although the rolling diameters of both spares are the same as the main wheels on the Superb, and the tyres equally wide, I am aware that they will have different dynamic properties so will have to be treated to a 50 mph max speed. But a 5th wheel+tyre identical to the other 4 would have fitted in the spare-wheel well so WHY can’t they supply the real thing?

Michael Perry says:
17 January 2013

My wife and I have had 4 tyre problems in the last few years.

The first was a front wheel blow out on a hire car close to the middle span on the southern Severn Bridge – very scary in heavy traffic. Fortunately, this Corsa had a full spare wheel and the AA had me up and running within 90 minutes. If there had been only a repair kit I would probably still be there!

The second a slow puncture which showed up at home. I managed to restore the pressure with a foot pump and drive it 6 miles for repair. This car has a temporary spare but fortunately was not needed. I would have been happier with a full spare wheel.

The third my wife went down a large pot hole which she had not seen (full of rain water). Later the tyre went completely flat because the rim had been damaged. Again this older model Fiesta had a full spare which took 10 minutes to change. Again an inflation kit would have been useless and a temporary spare a nuisance.

The last a hire car, in Florida admittedly. This had a slow front wheel puncture which went half flat on New Years day outside our accomodation. This car had a temporary spare. I was told to change it myself and then drive it to the airport 15 miles away where they would swop the car. This not only resulted in the drive from hell along a 6 lane interstate (people thought I was a complete idiot driving at 50 mph) but also caused me to effectively loose half a day of my holiday.

I can see little justification in providing a temporary spare and absolutely none in providing a repair kit. What are these manufactures thinking of? Oh I know themselves and their profits. I will not buy another car that won’t take a full spare. Perhaps we should all voice this opinion!

Michael Perry

dennis knight says:
22 May 2013

At one time the AA stated they would deal with a puncture as long as the car had a serviceable spare wheel – is this stll the case. If I drive a car with a non standard wheel – my spare is smaller- am I breaking the law. I started driving about 50 years ago and we all carried a bootfull of tools and spares. Just can’t get out of the habit.Can’t believe anyone would drive a car and not know if they had a spare.jack and wheel brace.

S J Hersom says:
23 June 2013

My new Subaru Forester (11/2012) came with not only a full size spare but an alloy rim which matches the others. And I’ve used it.

franky says:
3 August 2014

Always had a spare and the neccesary until today in a thunderstorm .i jacked it up on the roadside cursing the weather ,off with the tyre which was wrecked as i had driven off the motorway with it flat. undid the spare from under ,(Berlingo van)to find it was off a renault and nothing like a citroen wheel . back on with said flat and drove to kwik fit 4 miles away where they fitted a new tyre at an over inflated price. the original cause was a large gash which no sealant would have repaired so also having a fabia with no spare i shall be at the scrapyard tomorrow for a spare for both vehicles……..only way a can of foam would have fixed todays gash would have been to shove the can in the hole..they arent my idea of a fix…..