The AutoSlash team has lost two tires on rental cars thus far this year. The cost of Chris' debris-damaged tire was relatively modest -- he had a rental from Hertz and settled the claim for pennies on the dollar with their flat rate damage settlement process. When given the ability to settle a claim instantly for $40 or wait until Hertz figures out how much a new tire costs on an Infiniti sedan, he obviously made a great choice. The cost of my tire (with National) could have been hundreds of dollars more if I hadn't experienced simple luck. On a 500+ mile one-way drive with only two National locations en route, my tire was damaged within miles of the destination and I had a spare. A surprising number of rental cars today don't have spare tires, as many new cars don't include those on the equipment list.
Nothing to Spare?
AAA has been complaining about the elimination of spare tires for years. Today, 28% of all vehicle models sold in the United States come without a spare tire. Part of this is due to advances in technology, such as run-flat tires. Part of this is due to weight and size considerations in cars -- if you are seeking an electric vehicle with a bulky, heavy battery or a sports car, there's effectively no chance that vehicle will be equipped with a spare tire. And as part of a self-fulfilling prophecy, more than 40% of current drivers have little to no confidence in their ability to change a tire if needed.
A new car without a spare tire (full-size or donut) is entirely legal, and a rental car without a spare tire is also entirely legal. When a rental car is issued, the company has to provide a car in operating condition and the renter is responsible for any damage that occurs during the contract period (such as running over road debris). We're not going to dive into the argument that rental cars should come with a spare and other niceties that aren't required by law; if a car needs to be equipped with after-market equipment to help with every potential road incident (jumper cables, replacement headlamp bulbs, flashlights, emergency kits, fire extinguishers, etc.), then renters would complain about the cost and increase in time in the check-in/checkout processes! Fortunately, a renter isn't helpless in the movement away from spare tires as standard equipment in automobiles
What Can a Renter Do?
AAA provides a list of the 2017 models that are currently sold without spare tires (or include spare tires as an option), which is fairly illuminating. As part of manufacturer events, I've driven four models this year where a spare tire isn't even an option (Fiat, Mini, Nissan Leaf, and Tesla Model X). In rental cars, I've driven three vehicles (BMW 3-series, the large Cadillac CTS, and Hyundai Accent) -- one long distance -- without a spare tire in the trunk. Our team's among the group that would be highly proficient in changing tires if we had a flat, so we would much rather change our own behavior rather than wait hours (and potentially incur great costs) if we were to have a tire-related incident in the future.
There's a reason AAA notes that they had 450,000 calls last year to help with tires; they have a vested interest in attracting members to their organization! We're on the road a lot, so our team members have considered roadside protection packages that cover our personal vehicles as well as rental vehicles for fairly lengthy tows. We shy away from purchasing roadside insurance coverage from our personal insurers or relying upon card benefits from premium credit cards (like the American Express Platinum card), as those options tend to provide coverage for personal vehicles only.
Our team already has a plan for roadside assistance if needed, which is the first step that accounts for many (not just tire-related) potential incidents while driving. We drive some remote stretches of highway on a rather frequent basis, so we've selected plans that provide peace of mind for pennies a day.
What's our other major key? It's actually the choice among the rental car companies. We talk frequently about the business-oriented rental car firms and how they have services where customers select their own cars at major airports (Avis Preferred Select and Go, Hertz Gold Plus, and National's Emerald Club). We're not kidding when we state that well over 90% of our team's rentals are with these groups -- these are the three companies targetting business renters that allow skipping the counter, choosing one's own vehicle, and earning points toward future rentals. If assuring that a car has a spare tire for a long trip is in your decision-making criteria, the companies that allow a renter to choose cars among an aisle are going to provide the best bet for avoiding that Hyundai Accent (no spare possible) and getting into the comparably-sized Toyota Corolla (temporary spares issued by default).
Ready to rent your next rental car? Once you get to the lot, you want to remember to check for a spare. First, you want to find the lowest rate possible -- that's why you're reading our blog! Click below to request quotes and we'll send you the best possible offers within minutes.