A deflated car tyre. Alamy stock photo via PAA deflated car tyre. Alamy stock photo via PA


Car makers ditching spare wheels to meet emissions laws – leaving more drivers stranded

  • New analysis shows just 3% of new car models sold in UK have spare wheel as standard
  • Manufacturers are dropping them to help comply with tougher emissions laws, says RAC
  • But that’s led to more drivers needing help after a breakdown

Time 9:06 am, November 20, 2023

Car manufacturers are ditching the spare wheel in droves, leading to more and more drivers being stranded after a puncture.

That’s according to new research by the RAC, which found that just 3% of new car models sold in the UK have a spare wheel as standard.

An RAC review of 313 models – covering superminis to 4x4s – found that only eight of them had a back-up wheel in the boot.

That was causing a rise in drivers needing help when their vehicle suffers an unrepairable flat tyre, said the breakdown rescue company.

Its patrols went out to nearly 200,000 call-outs last year where drivers had a puncture and no spare wheel – up from 165,000 in 2018.

The RAC said that many manufacturers had stopped including a spare wheel to reduce the weight of their cars by up to 20kg.

This makes the vehicles more fuel-efficient to comply with tougher emissions legislation.

Another reason for the drop in spare wheels is that EVs often have battery packs where the tyres would be.

The only car models identified as having a spare wheel as standard were the Fiat Tipo, Ford Focus (selected variants), Hyundai Sante Fe (PHEV), Land Rover Defender, Seat Ateca (selected variants), Suzuki Across, Volvo XC90 (not PHEV) and Toyota Land Cruiser.

RAC 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 break down 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 one of our patrols.

‘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.’

RAC vans previously only carried five-stud spares, but a four-stud version has been added as they’re becoming increasingly common with new cars, especially smaller ones.

Trade body the SMMT declined to comment.

Main image credit: Alamy/PA

John Bowman's avatar

John has been with Car Dealer since 2013 after spending 25 years in the newspaper industry as a reporter then a sub-editor/assistant chief sub-editor on regional and national titles. John is chief sub-editor in the editorial department, working on Car Dealer, as well as handling social media.

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