Some Newer Cars Are Missing a Spare Tire

Sealant kits are becoming more common. Here's why.

A spare tire Photo: iStock

Q. I was stunned to discover that my new car doesn’t have a spare tire. Was I ripped off?

A. Not really. Over the past five years, about 10 percent of the cars tested by Consumer Reports came with a full-sized spare. About 60 percent came with a temporary (aka space saver) spare tire, and the rest were equipped with a sealant kit or a run-flat tire, or nothing at all. 

About a third of new cars today do not come with a spare tire, though they might also be equipped with a compressor and sealant kit to temporarily fix a flat tire. Some cars without a spare come with a run-flat tire, which is designed to operate for a limited distance after losing air from a typical puncture.

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Carmakers are skipping the spare because of regulatory pressure to squeeze more miles out of every gallon of fuel: Ditching the 40 or 50 pounds that a tire and jack usually add to a car’s weight helps to increase fuel economy slightly. (It also incidentally increases automakers’ profits because they don’t have to pay for those parts.)

The problem is that a sealant kit won’t help you if a tire’s sidewall gets sliced or if the flat is caused by more extensive damage than a tread puncture. If you want to be prepared for any type of flat tire, consider a spare-tire kit, which includes a tire, jack, and lug wrench. These kits start at around $150.

“Know how your car is equipped before you take delivery,” says Chris Jones, a certified mechanic and tire technician at CR. “Don’t assume the car you’re about to buy has a spare tire. The best time to find out is in the showroom—so you can also use it as a negotiating point—not on the side of the road after you’ve had a flat.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated since it first appeared in the September 2018 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

Jeff S. Bartlett

A New England native, I have piloted a wide variety of vehicles, from a Segway to an aircraft carrier. All told, I have driven thousands of vehicles—many on race tracks across the globe. Today, that experience and passion are harnessed at the CR Auto Test Center to empower consumers. And if some tires must be sacrificed in the pursuit of truth, so be it. Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSBartlett).