Full-size Spare Tire vs Donut

Full-size Spare Tire vs Donut: (Unraveling the Best Choice for Your Car)

Just like you, I’ve found myself in that sticky situation where I’m far from home, and suddenly I hear that dreadful thumping sound. A flat tire. Yup, we’ve all been there, haven’t we? And then you pop your trunk, hoping for a full-size spare tire, but what you find instead is a little donut. Now, I’ve had my fair share of experience with both, and let me tell you, it’s quite the conundrum.

I know what you’re thinking. ‘What’s the big deal? A spare tire is a spare tire, right?’ Ah, but that’s where it gets interesting, my friend. The tricky part is understanding which one works best in different scenarios. But don’t worry, I’ve navigated this maze before, and I’m here to guide you through it.

So let’s embark on this journey together, you and I. We’ll explore the ins and outs of full-size spare tires versus donuts, dispelling the confusion, and helping you make an informed decision. After all, we’re in this together, aren’t we? Let’s get rolling!

Full-size Spare Tire Overview

In the event of a flat tire, a full-size spare tire—otherwise known as a fifth wheel—can be a lifesaver. The beauty of a full-size spare is that it’s identical in size and performance to your car’s other tires. So, you might be wondering, what’s the catch? Well, let me briefly introduce you to this type of spare tire.

Pros of Full-size Spare Tires

Same Size and Performance as Normal Tires

Unlike temporary, smaller tires, full-size spares are just like your car’s regular tires. This means they can offer the same level of performance and durability. From my experience, it’s a bit like having a safety net—you can rest assured knowing you have a fully functional tire in your trunk.

Doesn’t have Distance or Speed Limitations

Full-size spares don’t have to be driven slowly or for only short distances, unlike donut tires. You can drive on them just as you would a regular tire, giving you more freedom and less stress when your original tire goes flat. I’ve personally found this to be particularly helpful during long trips or when I’m far from a repair shop.

Provides Better Safety and Stability

With a full-size spare, your car will handle as it usually does. That’s definitely a pro for your safety and stability on the road. I remember once driving on a donut spare—it just didn’t feel the same. The car seemed to sway slightly, especially on highways. But with a full-size spare, you’ll feel more confident and secure.

Does not Need to be Replaced Immediately

You might be in a situation where you can’t replace your flat tire right away. Maybe your budget is tight, or the tire shop ran out of your tire size. A full-size spare tire allows you to keep driving until you’re ready to buy a new tire. This flexibility is something you just can’t get with a donut spare.

Works with AWD and 4WD Systems

If your car is equipped with an All-Wheel Drive (AWD) or Four-Wheel Drive (4WD) system, a full-size spare is the way to go. Using a smaller, temporary spare can mess with these systems and potentially cause damage. So, for those with AWD or 4WD vehicles, a full-size spare is best.

Cons of Full-size Spare Tires

Despite their many advantages, full-size spares also have some drawbacks. Let’s go over them so you can make an informed decision.

Increased Weight and Space Requirements

A full-size spare is larger and heavier than a donut spare. This can lead to reduced fuel efficiency and less trunk space. I’ve found that this can be especially problematic if you own a small car or frequently need a lot of trunk space.

Higher Cost and Maintenance Requirements

Having a full-size spare essentially means buying a set of five tires instead of four. This adds up in terms of cost. Plus, to keep the spare in good condition, you need to periodically check its inflation level and rotate it with your other tires. It’s a bit more work compared to a donut spare.

Faster Aging and Potential Deterioration

Full-size spare tires, like any tire, can deteriorate over time. Even if unused, they can harden, crack, or otherwise become unsuitable for use. As a result, they generally need replacing every 6 to 10 years. This is something to bear in mind when considering a full-size spare.

Donut Spare Tire Overview

Donut spare tires, also known as space-savers or emergency spares, are another alternative if you have a flat tire. Let’s take a closer look at their pros and cons.

Pros of Donut Spare Tires

Donut spares have their own set of pros. In fact, they’re standard in many cars and can work just fine for temporary use.

Lightweight and Space-Saving

Donut spares are smaller and lighter than full-size spares. This is a blessing if you’re short on trunk space or if you’re concerned about fuel economy. In fact, some cars don’t even have room for a full-size spare!


Donut spares are generally cheaper than full-size spares, making them a cost-effective emergency solution. When you’re budgeting for your vehicle, this lower cost can make a significant difference.

Sufficient For Short-Term Use

While you shouldn’t drive on a donut spare for long distances or at high speeds, it’s usually sufficient to get you to a repair shop. It’s definitely better than being stranded at the side of the road!

Universally Available

Donut spares are standard in many vehicles, meaning they’re universally available. This can be especially helpful if you’re in a bind and need a tire quickly.

Cons of Donut Spare Tires

However, donut spares come with their own set of caveats. They’re not a perfect solution by any means, and it’s important to keep these cons in mind.

Limited Distance and Speed

The biggest drawback of donut spares is their restrictions on distance and speed. These tires are only intended for temporary use to get you to a repair shop. They’re not designed for high-speed or long-distance driving, and doing so can be dangerous.

Reduced Stability and Handling

Donut spares are noticeably smaller than regular tires, which can affect your car’s stability and handling. If you’ve ever had to drive on one, you’ll know what I’m talking about—it’s a pretty different experience and can be quite unnerving.

Incompatibility with AWD and 4WD Systems

Just like full-size spares work best with AWD and 4WD systems, donut spares don’t. If you drive a car with these systems, you might want to reconsider using a donut spare to avoid potential damage.

Not Suitable for Long-Term Use

I cannot stress this enough: donut spares are a short-term solution. Using them for extended periods can damage your car and potentially lead to unsafe driving conditions.

Inconsistent Performance

Donut spares can vary in performance. Some handle relatively well, while others can make your car feel unstable. It’s not something you want to rely on for any longer than necessary.

Maintenance Requirements

While donut spares require less maintenance than full-size spares, they still need attention. You’ll need to check their inflation level regularly to ensure they’re ready to use when needed.

Aging and Potential Deterioration

Like full-size spares, donut spares can deteriorate over time even if they’re not used. This means they’ll need replacing every so often, adding to their overall cost.

Comparing Full-size Spare Tire vs Donut

When it comes to the full-size spare tire vs donut debate, the choice largely depends on your specific needs and driving habits. Let’s quickly compare them.

Performance Comparisons

In terms of performance, full-size spares are the clear winner. They offer the same performance and handling as your normal tires, whereas donut spares do not. If you value performance and handling, a full-size spare is the way to go.

Cost Considerations

While full-size spares have better performance, they also cost more. Donut spares are cheaper and still provide a viable temporary solution for a flat tire. If budget is a major factor for you, a donut spare might be the better choice.

Size and Space Considerations

Size and weight are also important to consider. Full-size spares take up more room and can affect fuel economy due to their heavier weight. On the other hand, donut spares are lighter and take up less space, making them a good option for smaller cars or those with limited trunk space.


Both types of spare tires require maintenance, but full-size spares require more due to their need for rotation and inflation checks. If you don’t mind a bit of extra upkeep, a full-size spare might be for you. However, if you prefer minimal maintenance, a donut spare could be the better choice.

Alternatives to Full-size Spare and Donut Tires

If neither a full-size spare nor a donut spare seems like the right fit for you, there are alternatives. These include tire repair kits, run-flat tires, tire mobility kits, self-sealing tires, roadside assistance, portable tire inflators, emergency tire puncture plugs, and onboard tire pressure monitoring systems. Regular tire inspections and maintenance are also crucial to prevent the need for a spare in the first place.

Full-Size Spare Tire Vs Full-Size Temporary Spare

Some vehicles come with a full-size temporary spare, also known as a limited-use spare. This type of tire is the same size as your normal tires but is lighter and not meant for long-term use.

What is the main difference between Full-Size Spare and Full-Size Temporary Spare?

The main difference between a full-size spare and a full-size temporary spare is the intended usage. The former can be used just like a normal tire, while the latter is intended for limited use just like a donut spare.

Similarities between Full-Size Spare and Full-Size Temporary Spare

Both are the same size as your normal tires, meaning they provide better handling and performance than a donut spare. However, just like a full-size spare, a full-size temporary spare can take up more space in your trunk.


Is it better to have a full-size spare tire?

Whether it’s better to have a full-size spare tire depends on a few factors. If you have space in your car, often travel long distances or in remote areas, and don’t mind the extra cost and maintenance, then yes, a full-size spare might be the better option for you.

Is it better to have a spare tire or donut?

Again, this depends on your specific circumstances. If you have a small car, frequently need your full trunk space, or want to keep costs down, a donut spare might be the better choice.

How long will a full-size spare tire last?

Like any tire, a full-size spare can deteriorate with age. Even if it’s not used, it may need replacing every 6 to 10 years to ensure it’s safe and functional when needed.

In conclusion, both full-size spare tires and donut spares have their pros and cons. Your choice should depend on your specific needs, driving habits, and vehicle type. It’s always important to weigh the costs and benefits before making a decision. And remember, no matter what spare you choose, regular tire maintenance can help prevent the need for a spare in the first place!