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When you buy a new car, there are a few things you expect—that it’s in tip-top shape, of course, and that it’s loaded with modern car features. But in a world where having the latest and greatest vehicles also means making them lighter and more fuel-efficient, automakers are leaving off a feature you probably wouldn’t expect—or even check to see if it’s included.
Seats, brakes, a steering wheel, seat belts, a spare tire in the trunk—all things we’ve come to assume are included with our car. But when it comes to that spare tire, you probably didn’t think to make sure it was there until it was too late and you were already on the side of the road with a flat, right?
We’ve all been there. For most of us over the years, that handy spare tire was just waiting in our trunks, hidden until its day in the spotlight.
If you buy a new car now, however, that roadside lifesaver might not be there in a time of crisis.
According to new research from AAA, nearly 28 percent of 2017 model-year vehicles do not come with a spare tire as standard equipment. In 2016 alone, AAA rescued more than 450,000 members who had a flat tire, but were in a car that didn’t have a spare.
“Having a flat tire can be a nuisance for drivers, but not having a spare could put them in an even more aggravating situation,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of automotive engineering and repair in a AAA news release. “This can turn the relatively routine process of changing a tire at the roadside into an inconvenient and costly situation that requires a tow to a repair facility.”
This doesn’t apply to all 2017 cars, but it does apply to some pretty popular makes and models, including:
- Chevrolet Volt
- Ford C-Max
- Hyundai Accent
- Jeep Cherokee/Compass
- Kia Soul/Forte
- Nissan Leaf
The survey also lists other vehicles where a spare tire is not included, but optional as an add-on. Those include the Buick Regal, Chevrolet’s Colorado and Malibu, the Honda Accord and the Toyota Prius, among others.
AAA has put together a handy list of cars and whether or not they automatically come with a spare tire. You can view their list on their website by clicking here.
As a replacement for a spare tire, you might find a tire-inflator kit instead, which can temporarily repair small punctures. However, a 2015 AAA study found that tire-inflator kits have limited functionality and cannot provide even a temporary fix for many tire-related problems, like blowouts.
“Not only are tire-inflator kits not a good substitute for a spare tire, they can cost up to 10 times more than a tire repair and have a shelf life of only four to eight years,” AAA says.
Another interesting note from AAA? According to a previous survey, nearly 20 percent (or 39 million) of U.S. drivers do not know how to change a flat tire. If you’re one of them, here’s a handy guide to changing your own tire. Or, check out the video below:
If you have a new car, it’s best to not assume you have a spare tire. AAA recommends checking before you need it, so you know if it’s there during an emergency.
It’s also a good idea to check your other tires often to ensure they have sufficient tread and good pressure. And don’t forget your roadside emergency kit! You can make your own or purchase one like this one on Amazon for about $20. Most include batteries, a flashlight, a few tools and a first-aid kit.
Because we can’t predict flat tires or other emergencies, being prepared and checking for a spare ahead of time is your best bet.