How long can you drive on a spare tire?

Editor: Ilkka

Last updated: May 24, 2023

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Spare tires are savers when you experience a flat tire, especially when not using run-flat tires. Spares could get you to your destination or a service center to get a replacement. However, spares are not built to be used for a very long time. So how long can you drive on a spare tire?

Spare tires could be driven between 50-70 miles depending on whether it’s a full-size spare or donut tire. Let’s see how long to drive on a particular spare type and why it is so.

How long can you drive on a full-size spare tire?

Full-size spare tires are designed to be used for longer distances and periods. So you can run a full-size spare tire for up to 100 miles. Why? These spares are built with high-quality rubber compounds, which makes them durable and can take any harsh road conditions and still function properly.

Full-sized spare tires are of the same size and weight as the other tires in your car. Meaning, they can function much like the regular tires in your car. You will find a full-size spare in many old cars or bigger modern vehicles. Reason is these cars have the strength and capacity to take on such tires.

Jeeps usually have full-size spare tire.

So if you have an old vehicle or recently bought SUVs, trucks, or other large vehicles, they may come equipped with a full-sized spare tire. Another major advantage of a full-size spare is it does not have a speed restriction. Hence, it can travel at the same speed as standard car tires. Just ensure you use spares according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.

Please note that while a full spare looks like your standard tire, they are not built by the same manufacturer who built the other tires in your vehicle.  Hence, handling may be different and braking power might be worse. So while these tires could buy you some time, you should get the spare tire replaced as soon as possible.

How long can you drive with a donut spare tire?

As a rule of thumb, you can drive on donut tires for only 70 miles and at a speed of 50 miles per hour. Donut spares are made with inferior material and therefore aren’t recommended to be driven over long distances.

Because donut spare tires are smaller than regular tires, they save space and weight in your car. Donut tire – also known as space-saver tire – can usually be found in modern or smaller vehicles.

Donut tire is narrow compared to normal tire, which will result in reduced traction.

However, because of their low tread depth, they have less traction, and therefore, spin faster. Prolonged use of donut tires can damage your vehicle or parts. So ensure you don’t use the space-saver spare above the manufacturer’s recommended mileage before replacing it with a new tire.

Because donut spare tires have a lot less traction than normal tires, you should always be cautious when driving with them. Driving slowly and braking earlier is recommended when driving with a donut tire.

What about a run-flat tire?

Run-flat tires are not spare tires. They operate like standard tires in your vehicles. However, unlike regular tires, run-flat tires can still drive you even after a visible puncture. Specifically, run-flat tires can run up to 50 miles after deflation since they maintain pressure. This buys you enough time to get to a service center or even your destination.

With run-flats, you won’t be left stranded or have to wait for a tow truck to pick up your vehicle. While using a run-flat tire, be mindful of your tire’s condition. If you start running low on tire pressure, you may need to check and repair it immediately, unless you want to replace it with a new run-flat tire, which is very expensive.


We’ve already established the distance spares can be driven–70-100 miles depending on the spare. Since these spares are not made to be used always, ensure you set the air pressure to the manufacturer’s recommendations, and there is no visible puncture on them before entering the road.

Lastly, no matter your spare type, do not exceed the manufacturer’s recommended mileage and speed when using them. Remember, spares are a temporary fix that can buy you time before replacement.

You can also use your owner’s manual to get specific times to drive on a spare. For cars with smaller space saver tires, there may be additional usage restrictions–a good reason to follow your owner’s manual.


What happens if you drive too long on a spare?

Driving too long on a spare may reduce your car’s handling and stopping power. If you use smaller space saver tires, the tire may spin faster since they are not of the same size as other tires in your car. Driving spare wheels for long can also damage the suspension and transmission systems in a car. Worse, you may be susceptible to a crash.

How many days can you drive on a spare tire?

Keep in mind not to go more than 70 miles on a single drive on a space-saver spare tire and not more than 100 miles on a full-sized tire. Calculating by days could mislead you since you may likely cover more than 65 miles on a donut daily.

How long does a spare tire last when unused?

A donut space-saver spare tire can last up to seven years unused, if it’s stored as specified by the manufacturer. Full-size spare can last up to 7-10 years. However, even if they look great physically after exceeding their life span, replace them. Their chemical compounds may have been compromised due to chemical reactions without you knowing.

What is the difference between a full-size and a space-saver spare tire?

Full-size spares are like the regular tire in your vehicle. They are built for large vehicles, are heavier, and take more trunk space. However, they are durable and can be driven over long distances at normal speeds.

A donut spare tire, on the other hand, is smaller than your regular car tires, built for smaller cars, light, and saves space. However, they are built with inferior materials and have low tread depth. Hence, have less traction and can be used over short distances and at lower speeds–particularly 50 miles per hour

How much do spare tires cost?

Spares can be anywhere between $30-$200 depending on the type of spare, quality, and tire manufacturer. However, full-size spares are usually more expensive.