Electric Vehicle Owners Shun ICE Loaners


Hopefully more dealers will understand that their EV customers want an EV loaner when their car is in for service and add them to their loaner fleet.

Hopefully more dealers will understand that their EV customers want an EV loaner when their car is in for service and add them to their loaner fleet.

I’ve been lucky enough to own some spectacular cars in my life. Like most people, bringing my car in for service was never something I looked forward to. However one thing that I did like was when I got an interesting car as the service loaner. I remember one time when my Mercedes ML430 was being worked on I got a black E430 4matic and I liked it so much I almost told the dealer to keep my car and trade it for the loaner.

Today, many dealers have only a small fleet of in-house loaners and use rental car agencies for the overflow of cars that they need. They do it to save money, and I’m sure it does, but they do miss out on the opportunity to show off the other cars that they sell. I still don’t fully understand why a BMW dealer for instance would want to put their customer in a car from another brand while they are getting service, it just seems wrong.

I tried plugging in the 135i loaner I had a when my ActiveE was being serviced. That didn't work too well.

I tried plugging in the 135i loaner I had a when my ActiveE was being serviced. That didn’t work too well.

However dealers that are beginning to sell electric cars are now finding they have another problem to deal with. Their EV customers don’t want to drive a gas car while their car is in for service, regardless of the make or model. I wrote a blog post about this over two years ago when I was driving my ActiveE and now that the i3 has launched I’m watching many i3 owners say the same thing. One person recently posted this in the i3 Facebook group:

“Most people would love to drive a new BMW 3-Series for a few days as a loaner. Not me. It vibrates, burns gas, I have to use the brake pedal, makes noise and is slow. All this found during the 2.1 mile drive home. Very much so ‪#‎firstworldproblems‬. Think I’m going to bribe my wife for a ride to and from work.”

A 2014 BMW 328i loaner? No thanks.

A 2014 BMW 328i loaner? No thanks.

Imagine that. The BMW 3-Series is considered one of the best cars on the road. In fact, it has was recently awarded Car & Drivers coveted “Ten Best Cars” distinction for the 23rd consecutive year. One would think just about anyone would love to have a new one for a few days while their car was in for service. That’s not so if your car is an i3. After driving an electric car for a while, ICE vehicles seem antiquated. You feel the engine vibrations right up through the steering wheel, you hear the engine noise when you accelerate, gear shifts feel clunky and jerky. Yep, once you get back in an ICE vehicle after driving electric you realize what you’ve left behind and you don’t miss it. You’ve evolved now, and you don’t want to go back to the dark ages of the ICE.

Some BMW dealers have already realized this and are including i3 loaners into their in house fleet. This is a great idea for a couple of reasons. First, they can keep their i3 customers happy while their car is in for service, and secondly they can expose some of their other clients to the electric driving experience. Any electric car owner can tell you, getting people to try electric drive is the hardest part. Once they experience the smooth linear acceleration, the quiet vibration-less cabin and the excitement of the instant torque of an electric motor they too will be thinking about going electric. I’m happy to report my dealer (JMK BMW in Springfield, NJ) – perhaps with the help of some encouragement from me 😉 has decided to include an i3 to their stable of loaners. I think this is a great move and will pay dividends for them in the long run.

Like your Model S loaner? Just keep it!

Like your Model S loaner? Just keep it!

However this certainly isn’t just a BMW issue. I’ve seen Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt owners lament the fact that they get an ICE loaner car and wish they had an electric option available. Tesla only sells electric cars so they only have electric loaners. In fact, not only do you get a Tesla loaner, but all Tesla loaners are the top of the line P85 Model S. Plus, if you really like the loaner, Tesla allows you to keep it. Of course you have to pay the difference in your car’s value and the P85 loaners that you want, but it’s a simple process where you just tell them your keeping that car and they tell you how much you owe them for the difference. That’s another example of how Tesla is bringing new ideas and improved customer service to the industry.

I am sure that the savvy dealers who provide electric loaners for their EV customers will definitely benefit. The electric vehicle community is pretty close-knit and does communicate amongst themselves. It doesn’t take long for a specific dealer to be labeled a “bad” dealer for not being very “EV friendly”. Conversely, the dealers who have provided good service to their EV customers have benefited from a high number of referrals. The dealers who train their staff to understand these new cars, provide free on-site charging, and offer electric loaners are the ones who are really going to succeed in the new electric frontier.

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27 Comments on "Electric Vehicle Owners Shun ICE Loaners"

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And there are still people around in the automotive industry who believe EV buyers would come back to ICEs once they have realized the “limitations” of their EV…


Exactly. If anything, people will move to the Volt, i3 REx, or Tesla if the limitations bother them that much. The Volt probably has the most to gain simply due to the price range. Now let’s see if GM can capture that market with the second Gen.


Does the i3 require such frequent dealer service that driving an ICE loaner is really an issue? Most EV’s require so little dealer service that driving an ICE loaner would be a rare event.


It may be very rare, but it still is rather annoying! I’ve had an ICE loaner once, as I got rear ended and I had to get the bumper fixed. The dealer told me I’d get a nice loaner, but it annoyed the heck out of me. I don’t want to drive ICE cars ever again. If I did, I wouldn’t own an EV.


What if you get in a fender bender… still need a loaner (if you get it repaired at the dealer).


Erm, I think it’s the principle.
You wouldn’t dine out and accept a hotdog while you were waiting for your vegetarian meal…

David Murray

This hits home.. My Volt was in the shop last week and I had to drive a Malibu. It’s like going from a smart phone back to a brick phone from 1990. But it’s hard to complain much because everyone else is using the same brick phone and thinks their phone is great, not knowing how great a smart-phone is.

Mark Hovis

Interesting read Tom. I don’t expect a dealer to have an EV to satisfy me while I am still less than 1% of the market. However, I do like Tom’s EVangelistic approach to really engage the dealer to add one to the loaner pool, especially an EREV that eliminates their perceived range anxiety. I am sure a minority of ICE owners would refuse it, but a greater number would enjoy the opportunity to experience the new technology. Good on ya Tom.


Did you raise the point that they might actually SELL an EV if they loaned one to a ‘normal’ car driver? Being loaned an EV for a day or so might change some people’s perspective of what driving electric is really like…


I wish more rental companies had plug-ins too. This would also help out dealers that use rental cars as loaners.


I was lucky enough to get a Leaf loaner only once out of 5 visits.

Nissan in the past reimbursed Leaf users for gas. 🙂


As a tesla owner, I have had the car in for service once and as well as the annual checkup. Both times i got a Tesla loaner. I actually refused an ICE loaner and took a Tesla with a broken charger rather than drive an ICE.


This might be off topic but I remember that BMW will loan you a car for long distance drive out of state or something. How would I go about getting the loaner car? Is this loaner free or we have to pay?

Ford Prefect

I am currently one of those EV drivers whose car is in the shop and was given an ICE loaner. I am sitting in traffic instead of zipping by in the HOV lane. My commute has increased by 15 minutes. I want my EV back!


One of the things we hate about driving an ICE is idling in traffic. When we’re in our Leaf, if we’re stopped we’re hardly using any power. This can’t be said for an ICE, which has to maintain a constant burn of about a gallon an hour to get you nowhere at all.

So even if you’re stuck in traffic in your EV, you’re still coming out way ahead, HOV lane or not.


My wife had this experience once when our Leaf had to go back to the dealer for something or other early on.

Now, we’d actually been without a car for several years before our Leaf, so it was the only thing she’d driven for a very long time, but he reaction was somewhere along the lines of “Oh god, it was so *noisy* and jerky and annoying. I hated it! I was so happy when I got my car back 6 hours later.”

Now that she’s had to drive her dad’s car a little more often, she’s gotten a bit more used to it, and doesn’t feel downright icky afterwards, but it’s a slow process. 😉

The funny thing is that when we’ve tried to convince some of our more hardcore friends by letting them drive the Leaf, it hasn’t been their reaction at all. A few others are more receptive after only one ride to work though, so minds *are* changing.


I think for most people a single ride isn’t enough; it’s only when you have gotten used to an improvement over a period of time and then have to revert that you really notice the difference. Certainly, none of my test drives in EVs has ever had me thinking “this is so much better than an ICE, I must change now.” Of course, my ever increasing deafness makes noise almost a non-issue, and preferring to drive a stick makes me less than happy with anything that allows me to drive a car as if it were a go-cart, so I’m something of an outlier in any case. But I really can’t say that driving a car like the LEAF, iMiEV or even the Spark was a transformative experience. Maybe if I took a test drive in a Model S, but I’ve driven M3s and S2000s as well as my old Datsun 2000, and doubt I’d feel the sense of driving engagement with the Model S that I did with those cars.


Funny, I also always drove stick-shifts, but for me, all it took to hate ICEVs was the first couple seconds driving a Leaf.
The light-bulb went off the moment I pushed the accelerator. Instant torque, no noise. I was hooked.


I’ve yet to drive electric, but on my commute I drive down a hill about a mile and a half long. For the past six months or so I have taken to knocking my diesel out of gear and coasting to save fuel. A couple of weeks ago I took to switching the engine off to save even more fuel. My point is this: I notice no difference in noise between driving at 60mph, to coasting in neutral or coasting with the engine off, which makes me think that some of you may be exaggerating a little about just how quiet an electric car actually is…


You’re right, ICE’s just feel so jerky and noisy after any amount of time driving an EV.
I still remember the time when I took my Volt in for the battery side impact upgrade during a time of hugely political attacks on the technology. The internet trolls at that time were adamant that a Volt was merely a Cruze that cost way too much. Well, my loaner was a Cruze, and I was sorely missing my Volt! Having to put the key in it was the first irritation, then having to turn it to get the ICE started, followed by all the noise at every stop on the way home. I remember feeling every shift in the small of my back, and the body roll was atrocious!

I manged to get home and was delighted to drive it back a few hours later. (Delight at getting my Volt back, that is!) I had to stop and put $4 in the tank first, as it was a rental. Even the gas mileage was better on my Volt…


Hah! That’s reminiscent of the comparison between the Leaf and the Versa.

Yeah, sure, they’re both hatchbacks with the same chassis from the same manufacturer, but that’s exactly where the comparison ends. We rented a Versa Note during a trip to Edmonton last January, and we were blown away by how astonishingly cheap the Versa felt compared to our Leaf, even with the extra technology upgrades that the Note has.

So anyone who ever says “You pay a $14,000 premium to drive electric! That’s a lot of gas money!” is comparing the cost of the stripped-down, base model Versa with the base-model Leaf, without even so much as having sat in either one of them. And it’s not hard to guess why they would say that, either.


I would think most EV drivers (especially BEV drivers) are in multi-car households, and still have another ICE car.

I have a weekend convertible (3000GT Spyder VR-4) and I don’t mind going from my Volt to that car at all.

I drive a Fiat 500e. I’ve had it in to the dealer 3 times in 9 months. I moved to Orange County from Seattle only 9 months before getting the 500e and it is our only car (my husband is on a motorcycle). So when I end up with a Fiat ICE loaner I make sure it is over a weekend so I can get out and explore Los Angeles. I’m like “ok, I can go anywhere, where should I go?” We’ve made impromptu trips to Griffith Observatory, Santa Barbara, and Palm Springs for first time visits. We’ve used 6 of our 12 free days of ICE rental cars to go to Las Vegas, San Diego, and to tour an organic farm and drive Mulholland Drive to the coast (Dead Man’s Curve). For me it’s how many miles can I pack in to my loaner. We’ll cram 400 miles of scenery and adventure into a weekend. We also are the only people I know who only have an EV with no ICE alternative. I guess we like living on the edge – we also can’t charge at home or work but live near a Nissan dealer so we do a… Read more »

Wendy, you sound like an advert AGAINST owning an EV.
Back to the dealer three times in nine months (unreliable).
Like to get an ICE loaner on the weekend so you can drive around and do many miles(electric has no range)
When you say ‘donut delivery,’ are they for the guys at the dealership in return for ‘filling’ your tank? 🙂