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Will the spare wheel disappear completely from our vehicle in the near future?

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

New analysis conducted by driving services company, the RAC, has revealed that only 3% of new cars sold in the UK come with a spare wheel as standard.

This has resulted in a significant increase in breakdowns where drivers are left stranded without a spare wheel to replace their flat tyres.

The RAC examined the equipment lists of over 300 car models from 28 different brands, ranging from small superminis to large 4x4 vehicles. Shockingly, they found that only eight models (2.6%) included a spare wheel, and even then, half of these were only available on specific variants of the same model. The remaining majority of vehicles, with a few exceptions, were larger and heavier-duty vehicles that came equipped with a spare wheel.

This decline in the provision of spare wheels has had a direct impact on RAC breakdown call-out volumes. Last year, RAC patrols responded to nearly 200,000 incidents where drivers experienced a puncture but had no spare wheel, compared to around 165,000 incidents four years prior.

The shift away from spare wheels is not expected to change with the rise of electric vehicles. As these vehicles need additional space to accommodate battery packs, car manufacturers are utilising the areas previously designated for spare wheels. This leaves drivers with even fewer options in the face of a flat tyre.

Fortunately, the RAC has taken proactive measures to assist drivers in such situations. They have equipped their iconic orange vans with multi-fit, five-stud spare wheels, allowing their patrols to quickly replace punctured tyres. Additionally, the RAC is now introducing a new version of the spare wheel, featuring four studs, to cater to the increasing number of car manufacturers fitting four-stud wheels to their models.

The decline in spare wheels can be attributed to tougher emissions regulations placed on car manufacturers, compelling them to reduce vehicle weight and increase fuel efficiency. Spare wheels add approximately 20kg to a vehicle's overall weight, making their removal an easy solution for manufacturers seeking to meet emissions requirements.

RAC Breakdown spokesman Rod Dennis said: “Getting a puncture on a journey has to be one of the most irritating breakdowns for drivers, especially if it’s as a result of hitting one of the plethora of potholes that currently characterise so many of our roads. In the past, a driver could have reached for the spare wheel in the boot but this new analysis shows that these are now pretty much a thing of the past, with a minuscule number of new cars sold in the UK coming with one as standard.

“It’s understandable therefore that drivers are increasingly calling on us to help them out of a tight spot, and it’s a trend we fully expect to continue as electric vehicles are even less likely to come with a spare. Fortunately, we’re continuing to innovate to ensure our members get the best service possible should they breakdown as a result of a puncture, having just rolled out a four-stud version of our pioneering multi-fit spare wheel, that’s carried by every single one of our patrols.

“Interestingly, in many cases drivers ordering a new car can still buy a spare wheel – whether that’s a full-size one or the more common lightweight ‘space saver’ type – as an optional extra. This might turn out to be a wise investment if you are one of the many drivers who unfortunately suffers a puncture.”


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