By on June 9, 2020

The other day, we posed the question of whether you’ve ever regretted lending your vehicle to another individual. Not hard to see how something could go wrong in a hurry in that situation; God knows we’re a flawed species. Hopefully the memories weren’t too painful.

Perhaps less soul-destroying is what we’ve come here today to ask. While this has everything to do with the loaning of personal property to another, the situation is reversed. And the “friend” element is, for the most part, gone.

We’ve all dropped our ride off at the dealer or the local mechanic for necessary surgery (or BS servicing required to keep the warranty intact), and not all of us had a friend, spouse, or bus waiting to take us back home or to work that morning. Instead, we were handed the key to a wholly unfamiliar car.

The loaner. Often as mysterious and broken as the loner in that Neil Young song, the drive-it-for-half-a-day ride that sometimes becomes our companion for a week or more can be as varied as the psychological makeup of a hitchhiker.

As temperamental, too.

Once upon a time, my mechanic saddled me with one of those three-door, egg-shaped Hyundai Accents for a day. A car where my forehead comes awfully close to the windshield/headliner divide. Never mind the discomfort — what happens to my beautiful, beautiful scalp and neighboring face if I roll this thing?

I’ve always harbored an intense hatred for that particular Accent, despite its ability to run terribly forever. A friend’s mom owned one. A threadbare rental agency once left me piloting one of these things, prompting a sense of emasculation when I picked up a certain someone in it, rather than in my spacious and praiseworthy Camry.

Of course, a month-long loaner also led me to the realization that I can be happy in a crossover. And not on a temporary basis, either. With the right engine and transmission and a comfortable seat, I’m perfectly content to ply the roadways of North America in a two-box blandmobile — even one with a remarkably low-rent interior. Do you remember the model?

Tell us your stories of vehicular hate or enlightenment that arose after a dealer or mechanic handed you someone else’s keys.

[Image: Murilee Martin/TTAC]

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21 Comments on “QOTD: Have It Back by Close?...”


  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    I once got a completely clapped out VW Rabbit. First I thought it was kind of cool since I’d never driven one…but this was not a GTI nor even a Stick. It was a very well used car and it was late into the 90s at this point, long past the “best if used by” date for the Mk I Rabbit. It did make me happy to get my Escort GT back, which I guess is no small task.

  • avatar
    la834

    I never noticed before that “loaner” and “loner” are homonyms; now every time I hear that Neil Young song I’m gonna think of borrowed cars. Thanks!

  • avatar
    lstanley

    Revel in the brilliance of the last car on the rental car lot being a Camaro, at midnight, in Grand Rapids, in a blizzard.

    I hate Camaros to this day.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Not so much a loaner story but riding the dealer shuttle and my bemusement over the shuttle driver’s foibles:

    Calling me a block from my place because he couldn’t find it (never mind the hand written note I’d provided the service writer telling him to use MapQuest because my place was new~ish construction that wasn’t yet in Google maps… dude had the note in his hand and he mumbled something denial like when I asked him if he’d read it, riiight), check.

    Maybe petty and judgemental of me but loud nasal breathing while slowwwwing down going up a moderate hill in the left lane of four lanes, posted limit minus 5 as someone passes us on the right, posted limit minus 10 and a few more go by, minus 15… people like you are a direct cause of traffic problems.

    Reading, the law of gravity (and correlating it with push gas pedal more when go up hill… have you never ridden a bike in your life??), and slower traffic keep right were his weakpoints, I’d say. Slow in the head traffic do whatever you were going to do, I would say that was his strong point.

    Thanks for the lift but double thanks for th the memories.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    One time we were given a new Chrysler 200 as a service loaner. While handsome to me on the outside it was very small on the inside and the center console with the tunnel underneath was horribly executed.

    Another time we had some paint work done and were given a 2017 Pacifica for a service loaner and even for a rental beater it was smooth and quiet. We now own a Pacifica Limited.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    When the MINI I ordered arrived, my salesman was on vacation and nobody at the dealer had made sure it was prepped when my wife and I showed up at the time we’d scheduled to pick it up. Our plan was for her and our daughter to take the new car to visit her folks 200 miles away, and I’d drive our other car home, 80 miles in the other direction. When we explained how their incompetence had borked our weekend plans, the gave us a loaner for the weekend. So instead of showing up at the homestead in a base Clubman, she arrived in a turbo coupe. From what I’m told much hooning by siblings and in-laws ensued.

  • avatar
    sckid213

    Just last week I had my car in at a local independent GM shop. They always have a bunch of interesting loaners. So for four days last week, I drove a pristine 1999 Cadillac Deville 50th Anniversary Edition.

    It was crazy because I learned how to drive on a nearly identical car (1994 Sedan DeVille — same generation). Same color, same general options…it even smelled the same inside.

    TBH it was kind of a head trip; it felt like the matrix had collapsed in on itself driving this immaculate time capsule 20 years later. Kind of felt like time travelling. Doc & Marty McFly have their DeLorean; I have my Deville.

    The only way to time travel is…Cadillac Style!

  • avatar

    My late father bought his Bonneville from Dick Norris Buick-Pontiac-GMC and usually always got a Grand Am or Grand Prix for a service loaner. For some reason, Dick Norris took on the remnants of Daewoo for the two or so years left before they folded up, so he started getting Daewoos as loaners. He outright refused a Nubria once and came home instead with a Leganza CDX.

    He managed to get a ticket going 118 MPH in it and told the cop, “Do you really think this piece of shit can go that fast?” He got off with a 10-over citation.

    His review? “Not a bad car…for a woman to go to the grocery store or pick up kids with.”

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I had an F150 SuperCrew EB 3.5 4×4 as a insurance replacement while my truck was getting the box repaired. I loved the EB 3.5. It had electronic power steering which felt dead on centre. I did not like the electronic locker and how it and the ABS/traction control system worked in snow and ice. The traction control would kick in and cause a lot of chatter. It felt almost like wheel hop.

  • avatar
    Mike-NB2

    I have a positive story to tell. Back in February 2018 I had a guy who wanted to take over the lease on my 2017 Lincoln MKZ with the 3.0L twin turbo engine. Great car, but I’m one of those people who simply can’t manage to drive a car with an automatic transmission. No joke. I struggled.

    VW revealed the 2019 GLI which for the first time in a while wasn’t going to be neutered from the GTI specs. I was sold. I should also add that the MKZ was a rare foray from VW.

    But the guy who wanted the MKZ wanted it now, and I didn’t want to give up that opportunity so I took the deal. The GLI, though, wasn’t due in showrooms for at least a month. Rent a car for six weeks? Holy crap that was expensive.

    The dealer that I’ve bought many cars from did me a favour. The offered to lend me a car until they could get a black GLI in. I pictured tooling around town in a 2000 Jetta that blew black smoke out the arse end. But instead they lent me a 2016 Passat TDI off their used lot. This was like a homecoming since the car I had before the MKZ was a 2013 Passat TDI.

    I had it for about six weeks. No questions asked.

    I sort of did them a favour during those six weeks though. When I picked the car up the diesel particulate filter warning light was on. That can happen if a TDI is only used for short city jaunts since the car never heats up enough to go into the mode where it’s burned off. So I went for a 45 minute run on the highway to let the particulates burn off and the light went out. That and I identified that the thermostat needed replacing. So I guess we’re even.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    About 7 years ago give or take I was given a 1995ish Saturn SC1 as a loaner. The car was will used at the time so I forgave most of its foibles save one; it had an alarming tendency to randomly jerk hard right for no discernable reason, completely without any driver input. This was the middle of November and it was icy. That was an exciting car to drive in an “I think some poo’s come me out” sort of why. Thankfully I only had it for a day. When I reported the issue to the mechanic as a courtesy so they could fix it or take it out of rotation I received a perfunctory “we’ll check it out” but it didn’t seem like they were too concerned.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Ten years ago I had taken my 2006 Accord into an indie body shop with which my insurance agent was affiliated, and they didn’t get the character line on the rear decklid right, after I had backed the car into a ladder which was laid on its side in a scaffold, and the other end of the ladder backstopped by a porta-john! (That car had also been keyed in the parking lot of my County Title Office while I was inside obtaining the title after I had paid the car off!)

    The morning I took the car back for them to fix the trunk, I was driving their loaner Focus to work in Downtown Toledo, and was T-boned by a city bus whose driver ran a red light!

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      Was the bus lightly scathed but otherwise okay?

      (Sorry, Focus joke.)

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Just dented the empty bike rack on the front of the bus!

        The car, OTOH, was banged up pretty badly! Dented the front fender and hood, and the tie rod on the left-front! IIRC, the body shop spent the equivalent of $4,000 to put the car back together, and out of maybe seven Foci in their fleet, four of them had been wrecked, and the one I had made five!

  • avatar
    dal20402

    When I took my G8 GXP into the shop to fix rat damage shortly after moving to Seattle, I was unceremoniously handed the keys to a crew cab, 6′ bed Ram 1500.

    On a day when I had to street park downtown.

    Not ideal.

    The other, non-parking-related problem with that particular Ram: whenever I turned on the ignition, the radio turned on at a loud volume setting, regardless of how I had left it. I wanted to drive that pickup off a cliff by the time my G8 was ready two days later.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    After being a customer for three decades at an Audi dealer that became a Suburu Audi dealer and eventually just a Subie outfit when the Audi part relocated to a giant German fortress, I’ve always got loaners. And was able to follow the march of Subaru to uselessness and better sales as bits went wrong on my LGT.

    2014 Impreza hatch. Made my ’99 seem like a luxury car. So slow and noisy I actually pulled off the highway to make sure the windows were in fact really closed. The fact that they were was my really major disappointment of the day. The ride was an up-and-down rolly polly. What a useless car.

    2016 Impreza sedan. Acceptable, far less noisy and better ride. All that it needed was someone to replace the useless engine and CVT with the ones from my ’99.

    2016 Forester. Perched up on a barstool seat and less than a mile from the dealer I parked it and spent the day in restaurants and malls. The most “Nothing” vehicle it has ever been my displeasure to drive.

    2017 Impreza. new global platform, 200 pounds extra weight over the previous and a measly 4 extra hp. Hard seats, hard ride, zero power, and a mysterious lack of rear adhesion that made the front effectively dive for the curb on ruined potholed country roads as the rear skittered. Same roads the LGT hardly noticed at much higher speeds. Tires were only way over pressure, so I corrected that and it was still crap. Dutifully reported that it seemed quite broken, and the sales manager I’d known for decades basically insulted me. He was always claiming his legacy H6 with CVT would trounce my LGT, anyway. In your dreams, mate. Remember? You let me drive one and it was rather like the 2014 Impreza but quiet.

    The result, I changed brands when the LGT’s tranny went all weird after 12 years after I spent bucks on replacing all the brake lines, two of which had corroded through. Loved that car though, just not particularly durable except for the engine itself which never used a drop of oil, and dino oil at that. And I wrung its neck every chance I could.

    Subaru, now purveyors of rolly polly nothingness. No wonder they’re popular.

  • avatar
    millerluke

    I had a 2019 Camry that lunched it’s transmission at 200km (not 200,000, just 200, it was brand spanking new.) While they were replacing the tranny (under warranty, and remarkably quickly, as they should) I had a 2016 Corolla ‘C’ meaning ‘base as crap.’ Sure it was reliable, I guess more so than my new Camry, but it was slow, graphics were from 1990’s video games, and the only option it had was a CVT, which didn’t improve anything. I always dread driving a Corolla now, for fear it will be as terrible as that loaner. Course, I always dread my Camry’s tranny will die again, too. Toyota reliability? Not so much in my experience.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Did they not fill the transmission with fluid at the factory, and not check it again at PDI?

      How does a transmission in a normal workaday vehicle that isn’t hooked to a Saturn booster in the engine bay blow up before the first gas fillup?!

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        “and not check it again at PDI?”

        There’s an internet meme with Kayode Ewumi pointing to his head and tapping it with his finger. You don’t have to waste time topping off the fluids if you don’t waste time on a predelivery inspection.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    In the early 1970’s a gas station I worked at had a loaner 1956 Buick two door coupe (no B pillar) that was all original with close to peeling paint and only 7 working cylinders plus the driver’s side door didn’t like to open unless you’d spent some time yanking on the door handle, then after you’d gotten in on the passenger side like we told you, it’d swing open randomly on a right hand turn scaring the crap out of the hapless customer….

    No seat belts of course .

    Then all through the 1960’s and 1970’s were those myriad indie VW shops that had seriously clapped out Beetles, many were the then worthless mid 1950’s ones with the smaller oval shaped rear window, always ratty, no heater, horn, headliner, radio etc…..

    -Nate

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