Car manufacturers ditch spare tyres

6 Nov, 2012 11:48am Chris Ebbs

Auto Express study shows only a sixth of new cars get a full spare wheel

Just 17 per cent of new cars sold in the UK come with a full-size spare wheel as standard, Auto Express can reveal.

We spoke to 19 of the biggest car makers to find out how many of their models have a space saver wheel or repair kit instead of the real thing. Out of a total of 233 models, just 39 came with a full-size spare in the boot.

The RAC claims it receives more than 80,000 call-outs a year from motorists with no spare tyre. Meanwhile, Green Flag has reported a 20 per cent increase in the number of people left stranded because of this.

A number of manufacturers don’t offer a full-size spare as standard on any car, including Audi – which uses a mix of space savers and repair kits. At the same time, the entire Volvo range gets repair kits. BMW, meanwhile, provides no repair facilities except on its M models, as its cars use run-flat tyres.

Some of the companies we spoke to do offer a space saver or full-size spare, but only as a cost option. Prices range from £80 for a space saver on a VW Touareg to £150 for one on any Volvo.

Reasons for leaving full-size spares off the standard spec list varied. A Skoda spokeswoman argued: “By having a tyre repair kit as standard, it reduces the weight of the car and maximises the fuel economy and CO2.” Ford explained: “The tyre inflator kit is quicker, cleaner, easier and safer to use than having to change the wheel on the roadside.” Ford also pointed out that all its new cars come with free roadside assistance if you do need help.

However, while the repair kits can fix minor punctures, if the damage is more serious then there is no choice other than to call a breakdown service. Even if the kit can be used, you can’t drive faster than 50mph, and if you’re stuck with a space saver, you’re also limited to 50mph.

Who offers spares?

Make Number of models Full size spare Space saver Repair kit
Audi 12 0% 75% 25%
BMW* 30 N/A N/A 23%
Citroen 15 53% 0/% 47%
Chrysler 4 0% 50% 50%
Fiat 7 0% 71% 29%
Ford 9 33% 0% 67%
Honda 7 0% 14% 86%
Hyundai 11 28% 72% 0%
Jeep 3 67% 33% 0%
Mazda 6 0% 33% 67%
Mercedes 19 16% 42% 42%
MINI 6 0% 0% 100%
Nissan 10 20% 30% 20%
Peugeot 17 76% 6% 24%
SEAT 6 0% 17% 66%
Skoda 17 0% 0% 100%
Suzuki 9 6% 67% 22%
Toyota 17 6% 65% 29%
Volvo 10 0% 0% 100%
VW 18 33% 44% 17%

*All BMWs get run-flat tyres, except M-badged models

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Last week we had a flat tyre on the Jazz coming home late evening, car full of kids and no spare tyre. After messing around in the dark by the side of a busy main road to remove the tyre valve, squirting in the gunk, and then putting the valve back in, how nice to to set off the air compresser and watch all the said gunk come out of the tyre and flow off down the road.

I could have changed a tyre in half the time.... Without the wait for the tow truck.

What I cannot understand is the lack of proper spare wheels available in SUV vehicles designed to be driven off-road or even on non-tarmac roads. Land Rover is now the only European SUV manufacturer whose products can safely be driven off road. A space saver or tyre repair kit is useless or even dangerous for proper off road driving.

I got a Skoda Octavia brand new a month ago with a spare...

I've long felt that inflator kits only work in a minority of punctures, if you're travelling over 40 mph, by the time you've stopped, the sidewall is often damaged so the repair fluid would come straight out!
The result for the owner is paying a tyre firm 'top dollar' for call out, probably a mismatched replacement tyre and quite a delay - think ferry or appointment.
The other side of the argument is that 'most owners can't change a wheel anyway'. When I taught all 4 of my kids ( 2 boys & 2 girls)to drive, they all had instruction on wheel changing and have a piece of tube in the boot to give more leverage to the wheelbrace.
Oh well- I feel better for that rant. Hope you enjoyed it!

What makes you think SUVs, other than Land Rovers, are designed to be driven off-road?

Good question. Some vehicles that are supposed to be suitable for light off-roading such as the new Audi A6 allroad only come with tyre repair kits. They are therefore unsafe to even drive on a shingle road! Off-roading is definitely not safe without a spare wheel. Mercedes market the GL series as an off roader but only supply a space saver. A few months ago I was skiing at the Mt Hutt ski field in the South Island of New Zealand and witnessed a nice new GL350 putting on their space saver spare to then drive down a 13km rocky, rutted, unsealed road. They would be lucky if their space saver got them home!

This is a joke. If you use the tyre foam on an otherwise "fixable puncture", you render the tyre useless because garages won't repair it. So a £17 puncture repair now costs £80+ for a new tyre.

Current Ford Focus has a space saver.
As far as I'm concerned (and, it would appear, many others) no spare no sale.

Full size spare should be a given. Won't buy unless available. Chucked my spacesaver away and got a full size one, pleased I did as other options just would not have done.

I used to drive 64,000 kilometers annually. While living in America for some years, I drove a 1990 Honda Accord. I ditched the space saver after two incidences where the steel wheel bent. I bought a proper sized wheel, put on a new cheap radial tire. It raised the floor of the boot about 3 inches. But now I had the peace and security of a full size tire.