Runflats vs Non-Runflats – Are There Any Winners?

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Last Friday I was on the receiving end of a tire-shredding Chicago pothole for the second time in two months. The first happened as part of our 2016 7 Series test and was epic in sound, speed and ultimately cost. While BMW was on the recieving end of the $450 tire cost, it nonetheless serves as a good example of both the upsides and downsides of runflats. The downside is that eye-watering cost. As any MINI owners who’s had to replace tires knows runflats can be over double the cost of an equivalent standard tire. The upside of course was the ability to continue driving on the highway through some of the less safe portions of Chicago for 30 more minutes at highway speeds. Frankly in that situation it was well worth it.

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Fast forward two months and our MINI Clubman hit a much smaller pothole with similar results. The right front (non-runflat) tire was pinched by the rim and went from 34 psi to 0 in 30 seconds. As you can imagine the experience was just about the opposite of the runflat. There was no time to even think as I quickly decided to ditch the car at a friends house that was luckily around the corner. The upside was the $150 replacement cost and the quick shipping from Tirerack.

We’ve spoke at length about runflats over the years and have generally recommended ditching them in favor of a spare or a can of fix-a-flat and some luck. The ride and performance only improve when you move to a standard tire. But the benefits are pretty compelling if you’ve ever truly needed them.

It all begs the question – which do you prefer? The safety of runflats or the feel of standard tires?

  • CA-MINI

    I undertsand the security and peace of mind that the runflat offers. I kept mine on the car for the first 30k of my Countryman’s life. All the while I was reading forums and researching what would be the best non-runflat to buy. With my stock tires bald I elected to buy standard tires, at roughly 1/2 the cost of the runflats. The car without the runflats was immeasurably better. The ride was still taut and communicative but the car didn’t bounce and change lanes on more severe road surfaces. After the change I was very angry with myself I just didn’t ditch the runflats immediately after buying the car as so many have done. I travel with a compressor, Dyna-plugs, and Slime, and that seems like enough insurance for me. The trade off of such a marked improvement I get to enjoy everyday outweighs the (hopefully) very rare case where a tire failure would have been prevented with a run flat. My vote—strongly for standard tires

    • Jelmer van der Meer

      Not a fan of runflats either. But to be fair, you can travel with all those things to fix a tire, but you won’t be able to fix a pinched sidewall with slime. If you’re lucky you could use a plug, but more often than not, it will not hold a pinched sidewall.

  • Scott Schroeder

    My old 2004 Cooper S had non-runflats on it when I bought it (used). I had no issues and the ride was great. I hate the bad rap the Mini’s get for a rough ride because of the tires. Most car reviewers harp on the runflats, when it is a fairly easy thing to remedy.

  • EvanHVYWGHT

    Non-runflats. Makes a huge difference in the ride and impact harshness. Also to mention- runflats are fine for the first 5-7k miles- after that the deterioation in ride quality and increase in noise is ridiculous. My wife’s F30 335i fortunately got a bubble in the original runflats at 10k miles- replaced with non-RFTs and the difference was night and day. Did the same for my 2012 E91 wagon. Incredibly better.

    The cost of a AAA membership annually is less than the difference between one runflat tire versus non-RFT repair.

  • Brad Kappel

    I love that this discussion has been going on since the OG Cooper S had the Run-Flats and everyone got shifty-eyed over the prospects of going without having a spare tire somewhere on the car. (Does anyone remember MTTS 2006 when they had MINI’s driving around with roof racks and spare tires just in case if someone got stranded?)

    When I picked up my JCW Countryman with the 19″wheels shod with run-flat Summer Pirellis I would count down the DAYS to when I could switch out of them. Over the 26,000 miles put on the set, they went from a “seriously firm” to “gifting passengers scoliosis”. Driving around LA, theres always debris all over every road everywhere and recently I felt like a fool for saving hundreds ordering regular all-seasons off TireRack (Continental HP AS for those looking) but two weeks in and I’m utterly shocked at the difference. I had to drive to Monterey for Pebble Beach and I arrived in one piece and the silent smooth ride was golden. My car didn’t come with the tool kit or anything so I’m playing a delicate game being on the west coast without run-flats but I’m completely willing to wait for AAA in the event theres a flat over losing my teeth, bending my spine at 90º and grimacing at basically any undulations in the road. I challenge everyone to do the appropriate amount of homework based on their usage and needs because although I will detest every waking moment I had the run-flats, it saved my butt in the end when the tire place told me I had nails in both front tires. I had the fortune of pulling out one of them.

  • oldsbear

    I switched to non-RFT, which is fine close to home. However, I am not happy with the prospect of a long trip, even with AAA and Slime kit aboard. There’s not room for luggage, plus a spare. Besides, MINI doesn’t even supply a jack!

    • For long trips in our Clubman I typically pack the following:

      • Spare tire
      • MINI Jack (which I had to buy on eBay)
      • Torque wrench
      • Towel and gloves
      • Jan Wojcik

        I would offer that the craze towards extremely low profile tires has as much to do with travel anxiety as does the fact that the road surfaces are progressively becoming worse over time. Years ago,I blew out the 215/40-18 on my 135i and runflat status regardless, left me stranded 158 miles from home on a Sunday. Runflats have their role and from a DD perspective, as I really do not need Michelin Cup Sports for my daily commute, I do not have an issue with them. My MB 250 GLK has no room for a spare tire due to the AdBlue tank, hence RF tires, but, interestingly, MB chooses to call them MO as apparently RF is not allowed in their vocabulary.

      • Kevin Bartlett

        The toolkit MINI provides (when they did provide one) was sort of laughable. The jack was fine but good luck breaking a wheel free with the included wrench. An extendable breaker bar and appropriate socket quickly found it’s way into the boot of my car.

        • Bernie4pres

          Either you need to put on a little weight or (more likely) the bolts were over torqued. When torqued correctly it’s not hard to take off the bolts with the supplied wrench.

  • Tom Kennedy

    I prefer space designed into the car for a spare, and let the consumer decide. I can change a tire in 15 minutes or less, and have many times.

    • You can thank the center exhaust on the MCS for this. Which (according to MINI sources) was ironically dictated by consumer clinics.

      • Tom Kennedy

        Of course. I had a 2007 328 xit and now have a 2012 328 xit, and it seems with only minor re-configuration the space under the rear cover could be designed for a donut. The square that’s there now seems like an afterthought.

        • It’s optional on some BMWs. The key thing for BMW is to keep it off the car as standard to reduce weight and hit efficiency targets. That’s the main motivator for this.

  • Kevin Bartlett

    Have had it both ways. 2004 MCS, started with Runflats, moved to standard tires and loved the ride…..but bought a donut spare. BMW sportwagon has runflats and will just keep them, have saved me once (although I think I explored the max range of runflats and that wasn’t pleasant) Even a compact spare is a really poor substitute, it can still ruin a weekend trip. Can you even find a tire store that’s open on a Saturday evening?? I picked up a 2010 MCS earlier this year as I missed my MINI and driving manual, it’s previous owner put Pilot Super Sports on it, but the car doesn’t have the sport suspension so it’s an odd mix…..and I had to track down a compact spare all over again (should’ve kept the one I had on my first MINI).

    • Tom Kennedy

      Well, if you’ve got the donut, you can drive along, (albeit a lot slower), Saturday, Sunday, etc. until you can get it fixed or replaced. Run flats? Not so much. Oh, and if it’s an x-drive/All4 you’ll prolly need 4 tires. Ask me how I know.

      • Kevin Bartlett

        My 328 Wagon is X drive and has had 2 tires go bad. I was quite surprised when the dealer had not problem replacing just the bad tire. Recently the 2 remaining ones wore out and they just put the 2 older tires on the back axle and 2 new tires on the front.

        • Jelmer van der Meer

          Remind me not to buy your car :). Tread should stay within 1-2/32nds on every awd car.