Everything You Should Know About a Loaner Car

Everything You Should Know About a Loaner Car

A loaner car, also known as a courtesy car is a vehicle that is supplied by an automotive company. To be used temporarily in case your own personal. Or leased vehicle becomes unavailable for use due to unforeseen problems. Such as mechanical breakdowns. Typically when you take your car in for service at the dealership, they will give you one of their loaner cars to use while yours is being worked on.

Who Discovered It And When?

The practice of loaning out vehicles to customers who had theirs under repair has been around since the earliest days of motoring and was first offered by Cadillac dealer in Milwaukee Wisconsin way back in 1917. It was not until World War II however that it became widespread and started really catching on. This became even more popular in the 1950s and ’60s when car manufacturers started offering free loaners to customers while their own vehicles were being serviced, regardless of it was under warranty or not.

It didn’t take too long for the popularity of this practice to catch on with other industries that also had a need for a “loaner” like service. For example, you could get free gas at Esso / Exxon gas stations. which were then known as Standard Oil back in the 1960s when you filled up your tank there. You could get loaner tires from Firestone tire dealers. And you could even get emergency motel stays courtesy of Holiday Inn. How times have changed.

For most people, the idea of getting a free vehicle to use while their own car is being serviced seems like one of those “no brainer” types of things that everyone should be jumping on and signing up for, right? Well, apparently not! It turns out that many people don’t even know what a loaner car is or if they do they just don’t think it’s worth all the bother to get one. I guess it is only natural when you already own a perfectly good vehicle and there are so many other expenses in life such as your mortgage, electricity bill, groceries, etc. All of which seem more important than taking your car in for an oil change yet alone getting something else to drive while your car is being fixed.

What Does A Loaner Car Look Like?

So what kind of vehicles do these loaner cars actually turn out to be? Well, they can vary from a simple basic economy car like a Kia Picanto all the way up to some really high-end luxury sedan or SUV – but that’s not always the case. It depends on the company and your level of service with them. Some people get loaners for free while others may have to pay a small fee (in addition to their deductible) if the vehicle is more expensive than their own personal ride. There are many different companies that supply vehicles as loaners such as; dealerships, rental agencies, government organizations, and even automakers themselves.

Loaner Car Reliability?

Speaking of government agencies. Did you know that the US Government actually owns many of the vehicles that are used as loaners at Ford, GM, and Chrysler dealerships? Yes, these companies do have their own fleets of cars which they use for all sorts of things but since it would be difficult to keep enough on hand to supply free loaners to all their customers 24/7 they will occasionally borrow some from the government. When you hear about President Obama’s new Cadillac One “The Beast” security limousine being put into service it is more than likely one of those very same fleet cars.

Why do dealerships not have loaner cars?

If you read my earlier articles then you may recall that the biggest enemy of any car dealership is not really their direct competition but rather their own customers. People can be very fickle and unpredictable when it comes to buying a new vehicle. If they want a luxury SUV deal with a German brand like BMW, Mercedes, or Audi for example, what happens if they come down in price between when they first enter the dealership to make an offer and when they come back to take delivery? They might have lost out on thousands of dollars by walking out at that point so what do you think would happen next? They will go somewhere else and buy from one of your competitors right? It’s just human nature – we all work this way.

In order to prevent this from happening the dealership will often try to get you to sign some kind of legally binding document known as an “earnest money agreement” which means that if you change your mind about buying a car there is going to be a penalty, usually in the form of a forfeited deposit.

Now it just so happens that when you take delivery of a new or used vehicle at a licensed dealership. Whether it’s new or, pre-owned. You have entered into another type of legal contract. Either implied or express – called a “Sales Contract”. This typically assigns all liability for the vehicle from the time it leaves its lot. Until such time as they deliver it to you and obtain your signature transferring ownership over to you.

In other words, if anything goes wrong with the car. Between the time you drove it off the lot and when you sign for it then they are responsible.
Now if you don’t buy a car from them but still want a vehicle to use as a loaner while yours is being repaired then what will stop them from saying that they won’t give you one? What if something does go wrong with your car after all? Will their legal agreement now place liability on YOU since now it’s YOUR “loaner”?

In fact, they may even try to convince you to pay for any damage done upfront. Especially, if it is more than normal wear, and tear or what can be considered as minor scratches. This way they can have to report this accident back to the manufacturer. They can also contend that you simply “took delivery” of your car. So, all claims are between you and the insurance company.

What To Do If You Can’t Get A Loaner Car

There are many people who just don’t think getting a loaner car is worth the bother – that’s fine. They will just have to pay out of pocket for a replacement rental car while their car is being repaired. If they have a good relationship with the dealership. They may be able to get a small discount on the daily rental rate. But it won’t be much and certainly not as good as having a free loaner!


Other than being something of a novelty, using someone else’s vehicle while your own is in the shop can save you time, and money. When getting work done on your personal ride. It beats taking public transport or cabs all over town. It also helps keep down your carbon footprint by cutting down on all that unnecessary driving back and forth from home to garage all day long. So, next time you take your car in for a service. Just remember that you might be able to drive away on there.

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