The pros and cons of different spare tires

Spare Tires

For some of us, the term “spare tire” can mean different things. Some people picture a compact spare tire, also referred to as a donut spare tire. Others imagine a full-size tire. As it turns out, the full-size spare tire and compact spare tire are two different options that can help you prepare for a flat. Let’s break it down.

The full-size spare tire

A full-size spare tire looks exactly like the other tires on your vehicle, and it must be the same size. The brand doesn't matter as long as it's the same size. Here are the pros and cons of using a full-size spare tire:


  • You can drive on it for as long as you like. You don’t need to head to the tire repair shop right away.
  • If you include your full-size spare in your regular tire rotation, you’ll extend the life of all five tires.
  • Besides providing excellent safety and handling, full-size spare tires maintain a consistent look on your vehicle.


  • They're heavier than compact spare tires, making it harder to lift when replacing a flat.
  • They take up more space in your trunk than compact spare tires.
  • You may need to buy five tires and rotate them all evenly to maintain the spare's integrity.

The compact spare tire

A compact spare tire is not the same thing as your regular, day-to-day tires. Specifically, they’re a lightweight version that you can use just long enough and at low speed to reach a service station. Driving for long periods on a compact spare tire is dangerous and not recommended. Here are some more pros and cons of a compact spare tire:


  • They’re smaller than a full-size spare, leaving more room in your trunk.
  • They’re lighter than a full-size spare, making it easier to pick them up and install.


  • They’re only for emergency use. You can’t use it for long periods.
  • Compact spare tires can impact important vehicle features, such as ABS, traction control and your speedometer.

Some other options

Compact and full-size tires are not the only options you have when dealing with a flat. Run-flat tires and tire repair kits are viable alternatives.

Run-Flat Tires Typically, these tires have reinforced sidewalls that offer deflated or deflating tires enough pressure to make it to a repair shop. Plus, you won’t need to carry around an extra tire in your trunk. But, their stiff sidewalls mean you’ll feel bumps in the road, and you can only drive on them safely up to 55 mph for 50 miles.

Flat-Tire Repair Kit Some vehicles don’t come with a spare tire. Instead, these vehicles have a flat tire repair kit. These kits include emergency inflators and supplies like foam or sealant. Again, you don’t need to carry a spare tire in your car. But, they can only repair punctures that are shorter than a quarter inch. Plus, sealants and foam might have chemicals that permanently damage your tire. See our article on how to properly repair a flat tire.