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Getting Around While Your Vehicle Gets Care: A Guide to Loaner Vehicles

A truck driver showing his key to the loaner vehicle he just acquired

Car troubles doesn’t have to stop your life. While your ride is under maintenance, a loaner vehicle can keep you on the road. These temporary rides, also called a courtesy car or service loaner, are offered by some dealerships, repair shops, and even manufacturers.

A truck under maintenance

What Exactly is a Loaner Vehicle?

A loaner vehicle is a temporary vehicle provided by a dealership, repair shop, or sometimes even a manufacturer, while your own vehicle is getting serviced or repaired. It’s essentially a courtesy service to keep you mobile while your own vehicle is unavailable.

Loaner Vehicle vs. Rental: What's the Difference?

The key difference between loaner vehicles and rental vehicles boils down to availability, cost, and context:


  • Loaner vehicle: Typically offered by dealerships, repair shops, or manufacturers when your car is being serviced or repaired. Availability depends on their policy and your repair situation.

  • Rental car: Available from dedicated rental companies or through some dealerships and shops. You can rent at any time, regardless of your car’s status.

Handing out keys to the loaner vehicle


  • Loaner: Often provided as a complimentary service when your repair falls under certain conditions like warranty repairs or extended repairs. Some paid options might exist.

  • Rental car You pay a daily or weekly rate to rent the vehicle, similar to any other rental service.


  • Loaner: Primarily used as a convenience service while your own car is unavailable. They bridge the gap in your transportation needs during repairs.

  • Rental car: Can be used for various purposes, including travel, leisure, or temporary replacement due to various reasons, not just car repairs.

A toy car and a key

How to Get a Loaner Vehicle

Securing a loaner car while your own is in the shop can be a lifesaver, but it requires some legwork and knowledge of the process. Here’s a breakdown of how to increase your chances of getting a loaner:

1. Ask Upfront

  • When scheduling your car service, directly inquire about loaner car availability.

  • Explain your needs and timeframe for the repair.

  • Be polite and persistent, as loaners can be limited.

2. Check Your Eligibility

  • Review your car’s warranty or service contract for any loaner coverage clauses.

  • Warranty repairs often include loaners as part of the service.

  • Extended repairs might also qualify you for a loaner, especially if it will significantly impact your daily routine.

  • Some manufacturer recalls may come with loaner car provisions.

3. Understand Provider Policies

  • Dealerships and repair shops have different loaner policies.

  • Some offer a complimentary loaner vehicle as a standard courtesy service, while others might have specific criteria, like minimum repair cost or vehicle model.

  • Some shops may offer paid loaner options as an alternative.

  • Be aware of any mileage limitations or fuel policy associated with the loaner car.

4. Be Prepared

  • Have your valid driver’s license and proof of insurance readily available.

  • Some shops might require additional documentation, like your car registration or service appointment confirmation.

  • Be flexible with the type of loaner car you receive, as availability might be limited.

5. Be Courteous and Professional

  • Maintaining a friendly and understanding attitude can go a long way in negotiating a loaner, especially if availability is limited.

  • Communicate clearly with the service staff about your needs and timeline.

  • Remember, loaner cars are a courtesy service, so be respectful and appreciative.

Remember, loaner car policies vary greatly between dealerships, repair shops, and manufacturers. While the tips above can increase your chances, some situations might require alternative solutions. Always communicate your needs clearly and explore available options to keep your mobility even when your car is out of commission.

Do You Need Insurance for Loaner Vehicles?

Whether you need additional insurance for a loaner vehicle depends on your existing commercial auto insurance, the loaner car provider’s coverage, and the specifics of your situation. Here’s a breakdown to help you navigate:

Scenarios where you might need additional insurance policy

No Hired and Non-Owned Auto Coverage: If your existing policy doesn’t have this optional add-on, you’ll likely need additional coverage for both liability and physical damage to the loaner vehicle.

Limited Temporary Substitute Vehicle Coverage: If your policy’s temporary substitute coverage has limitations (e.g., vehicle type, mileage, duration), you may need additional insurance to fill the gaps.

Unclear Loaner Vehicle Insurance: If the loaner car provider’s insurance coverage is unclear or insufficient, you might need supplementary protection for peace of mind.

Scenarios where additional insurance might not be required

Comprehensive Commercial Auto Coverage: If your policy comprehensively covers hired and non-owned vehicles, it may automatically extend to the loaner.

Sufficient Temporary Substitute Vehicle Coverage: If your existing coverage adequately protects the loaner vehicle type and timeframe, you might be good to go.

Robust Loaner Vehicle Insurance: If the loaner provider’s car insurance provides comprehensive coverage for liability and physical damage, you might not need extra insurance.


  • Always check your existing commercial auto policy wording and contact your insurance company for clarification. Understand your coverage for hired and non-owned vehicles and temporary substitutes.

  • Get details about the loaner car provider’s insurance. Ask about their coverage limits, exclusions, and whether it’s primary or secondary to your own policy.

  • Consider your risk tolerance and comfort level. If you’re unsure about coverage gaps or want extra protection, consider purchasing additional insurance for the loaner vehicle.

Loaner cars can be a lifesaver during vehicle repairs. By understanding the specifics and eligibility, you can keep your wheels turning even when your own car is temporarily out of commission.