The cost of a spare tire can depend on many variables. Do you want an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) tire or are you happy with an aftermarket tire? Or a used? But first, why are you in the market for a spare tire? Is the new car you bought sparetireless? This is becoming more and more common as tire technology improves and car manufacturers attempt to reduce costs.
As you probably know, a flat tire nearly always happens at the worst time. You are running late for work or for an appointment and discover your vehicle has a flat tire. Sorry for the pun, but it’s times like these that can be very deflating. If you are in your business clothes or it’s raining or snowing and you call roadside assistance, the best bet is you can wait up to an hour for a service person.
Another problem; your vehicle may not have come with a spare wheel and like many owners, you have never bothered to learn how to use the tire repair kit that came with the vehicle.
In this article, I will cover everything you need to know about spare tires; past, present and future.
I began my auto mechanic apprenticeship back in the days when many roads were known as corrugated or washboard road and were hell on tires. For this reason many cars back then were equipped with two spare tires, particularly if it was a long trip. Repair stations were few and far between. Many travelers also carried a tire repair kit that included tire levers for prying the tire off the rim. The inner tube was patched and the repaired tire then had to be inflated with a hand pump. Ah, the good old days!
History Of Spare Tires
Prior to 1904, automobiles were not equipped with a spare tire. The condition of most roads was dreadful and punctures were a common occurrence. Flat tires had to be repaired beside the road and inflated with a hand pump that was also used to maintain tire pressure.
Then in 1904, Mr. Thomas Morris Davies invented the spare wheel. Davies invention was a spoke-less wheel with an inflated tire that was carried on the luggage rack at the rear of the car. Eventually, the spare wheel became a standard component of all cars, with some cars carrying two. These full-sized spare wheels were generally mounted on car exteriors, generally forward of the running boards or strapped to the trunk lid with leather straps.
Most new vehicles today do not include a regular-sized spare but are equipped with a storage space saving “donut” spare. Personally, I do not like the donut spare tire. They have less traction than a regular tire. They are smaller and should not be driven over 40 miles per hour. Also, they should not be driven for more than 50 miles. Personally, I would limit that to 25.
I am not alone. There are many vehicle owners who really dislike this space saver spare. They are totally useless in the winter if you were to get a flat in heavy snow conditions.
Some vehicles do not have a spare tire but come equipped with an inflation kit and tire sealant. Some come with a run-flat tire. This tire is only designed for short distances after losing air from a puncture.
Run-flat tires are now standard on many new vehicles. Not all manufacturers are incorporating this technology in their vehicles, however. Though the number of vehicles using run-flat tires has doubled in the last 10 years, it has recently leveled off to around 15%. Manufacturers using run flats now include BMW and Mini’s, Mercedes and some Cadillac models.
How Much Does A Spare Tire Cost On Average?
How much you will pay for a spare tire depends on a number of factors.
- Are you buying a new donut spare tire?
- Are you replacing your donut tire with a regular tire?
- Are you happy with a used full-sized spare tire or do you want new one?
- Have you bought a vehicle that does not come equipped with a spare tire but has an inflation kit that you are not comfortable with?
If you are replacing your donut tire with a regular tire, the most cost-effective way of doing this is to buy a used rim and tire from a wrecking yard. Or, you can buy a wheel rim and new tire online at an online store such as Amazon. If you are buying the extra wheel for a spare, then you can buy a steel wheel rim online and a used tire from your local retailers.
Steel rims are much cheaper than the “mag” wheel most cars come equipped with these days As with any purchase, it pays to shop around to get the best price.
Most tire stores keep an inventory of good used tires on hand. The tire you need for your full-sized spare tire does not have to match the brand or model of the tires your car or vehicle is equipped with so no need to buy a set of tires.
Something to keep in mind is the difference between summer and winter tires or all-season tires. Some drivers I have dealt with have chosen to have two spare tires; one for the winter season and a summer tire for the rest of the year. If you live in an area of the country that suffers severe winters with above-average snowfall, having a summer tire as a spare is not a good idea.
When Should You Get A Spare Tire?
In my opinion, every vehicle needs a spare tire. Most vehicles come with a space-saver tire with the exception of some new vehicles that come with the run-flat and self-sealing tires.
I am a great believer in a spare tire, even a temporary spare tire for a road trip. In some instances, it’s a good idea to travel with two. If you have an SUV and you love backcountry travel, it’s a very good idea to carry two spares. This is easy to manage if you have a rooftop carry rack or luggage holder.
If you are a back-country driver, a backup system for the two spares would be a tire repair kit and a tire air compressor / hand pump. A hand pump is a lot of work when inflating a vehicle tire so an electric compressor that works off your vehicle battery or plugs directly into the cigarette lighter is a good investment, even to maintain air pressure in your tires when away far from service stations.
There is an old saying created by American Express – don’t leave home without it. This really does apply to a spare tire. Every city has an area that you would not want to break down in and this also applies to getting a flat. Be prepared.
If you live in a rural area where there is not a great deal of traffic and its winter, to have a flat tire without a spare tire or with a spare tire that is flat can be life-threatening
For this reason, it is a good idea to check your spare tire every few months to ensure it is inflated to the car manufacturer’s specifications. If you develop a flat on an empty road in the middle of winter, you do not want to have an “uh oh” moment when you drag your spare tire out of the trunk to discover it as flat as a pancake.
If you purchased a vehicle that did not come with a spare tire and you live in the suburbs with a good 24-hour roadside service and you drive mainly in daylight hours, you can probably survive without a spare. Particularly if your car is equipped with run-flat tires. Make sure your roadside service policy covers a tow to the nearest garage or tire shop. If not, a short-term tow can cost you up to $100 or more.
If in the market for a new car, make the decision before you buy if you want to be spareless. It could be a false economy to think you don’t require a spare tire.
If you routinely take road trips that involve driving long distances between towns or travel a lot of rural back roads, you are going to need a spare. Getting a flat tire on a lonely back road means could mean a big bill for getting up and running again. If its night time and outside normal business hours, you could be stranded on the side of the road for a long time.
How Much Does A Spare Tire Cost At The Dealer Vs Other Places?
Generally, dealerships are the most expensive outlets for buying parts and accessories, The cost of a spare tire and rim will vary greatly from car make and car model. For instance, a wheel rim and spare tire for a Tesla will cost a lot more than a wheel rim and tire for a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla.
For this exercise, I am using one of the top selling cars in North America, the Chevrolet Malibu. Researching on the internet, I found the average price of an OEM wheel rim and tire for a 2022 Chevy Malibu to be $409 plus shipping and taxes.
Therefore, based on that example, I came up with the following prices on these websites.
Where Should You Go For A Spare Tire To Get The Best Price?
After conducting a reasonable amount of research, I venture the opinion that the best place to buy a spare tire is on the internet. However, you might want to check your local wrecking yard first. You could also check with your local tire store or repair shop. If you are a regular customer there in good standing, they may be able to offer you a deal. It never hurts to ask.
How To Avoid Getting Ripped Off When Buying A Spare Tire?
When shopping around for a spare tire, make sure you have your vehicle’s information at hand. Never assume that a part you are buying over the internet is correct because it came up in a search engine.
My wife drives a 2018 Hyundai Accent Hatchback and I was looking for a set of steel rims to mount her winter tires on. I found a great deal on the internet but after a closer look discovered they had 5-wheel stud holes. It was then I discovered the Accent came out with both four lug nuts and five. So it’s a matter of buyer beware!
Always have your vehicle’s year and model as well as the VIN number at hand. If you find a deal online, contact the seller and get them to verify the spare tire they are offering fits your model.
It’s pretty easy to avoid getting ripped off locally such as buying a spare tire from the local car wrecker or your local tire store. But, shop around and get quotes. And, always make sure you have your automaker’s vehicle’s details on hand. Don’t guess. Also, ask about warranty.
How To Save Money On A Spare Tire?
The best way to save money when buying tires is to shop around.. Even as a mechanic, I have to hunt around to get the best prices on parts. Buying a spare tire is no different.
If price is a factor, you may find online services like Craig’s List or Ebay is a good place to start. Then, depending on the make and model of your vehicle, try your local wrecking yard. If the vehicle you drive is a common make and model, it’s quite likely you’ll get your best deal at a wrecker. And, it is the best way of ensuring the spare tire you are buying fits your make and model of vehicle.
Think about how you rely on your vehicle on a daily basis. A spare can save you a lot of time and headaches in the event of a flat tire and actually save you money in the long run.
Make it a habit of checking the air pressure of your spare tire every 2 -3 months.
And Finally, Spare Tire Options
The self-sealing tires I mentioned are built with a sealant coating on the inside of the tire. When a nail or some sharp object punctures the tire, the sealant surrounds whatever pierced the tire and stops air from escaping. This sealing system will provide you with enough time to get to a repair shop.
Self-supporting tires are still in the experimental stage in my opinion. The tire’s sidewalls are reinforced way above a regular tire enabling the tire to support the weight of your vehicle due to low pressure or if the tire has lost all its air.