2014 BMW i3 Makes Consumer Reports “Used Cars To Avoid Buying” List

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Originally published on EV Obsession.

The 2014 BMW i3 isn’t a good option if you’re in the market for a second-hand electric car, according to Consumer Reports.

The popular magazine recently released a list dubbed “Used Cars To Avoid Buying” — the 2014 model year of the popular electric city car featured prominently on it.

BMW i3 Sarasota 1 copy

Worth noting, though, is that BMW had quite a number of other (non-electric) models make the list as well — so the issue doesn’t seem to be with the company’s approach to electric vehicles (EVs) itself, but rather with company-wide reliability deficits. (As many will note, many German auto manufacturers have had issues with reliability and quality in recent times.)

Green Car Reports provides more:

The list includes 2006 through 2015 models that have a record of below-average reliability. The ratings apply to specific model years of a given vehicle, because even a general pattern of good reliability can be interrupted by lapses during specific model years.

…While Consumer Reports says the i3 has below average reliability, the carmaker’s 5 Series sedan was determined to be “much worse than average” across model years 2006-2008, 2010-2012, and 2015.

The i3 wasn’t the only electric car on the list either. The 2012, 2013, and 2015 versions of the Tesla Model S all have “much-worse-than-average” reliability, according to the magazine.

Despite heaping praise on the Model S when it was new, Consumer Reports last year pulled its coveted “recommended” rating for the car, owing to that increasing evidence of that below-average reliability. Another used electric car to avoid is the 2013 Nissan Leaf, staffers say.

The issues with used Nissan Leafs appear to be mostly limited to the 2013 model year, though, as the 2014 model year is rated as possessing “better than average” reliability and the 2015 model year as having “average” reliability.

Do any owners/buyers of used BMW i3s, Tesla Model Ss, or Nissan LEAFs have anything to say about their vehicle’s reliability?

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

James Ayre has 4830 posts and counting. See all posts by James Ayre

22 thoughts on “2014 BMW i3 Makes Consumer Reports “Used Cars To Avoid Buying” List

  • “The ultimate driving machine” not the “ultimate reliability machine”. The latter goes to Honda or Toyota perhaps. As one who has owned toyotas, they’re hardly interesting cars (massive understatement). But they are reliable.

    • Our 4cyl 2006 Camry XLE remains trouble-free but the ride is not as comfortable as it once once. Also the “Check Engine” light remains lit at all times, even if there’s nothing wrong (per my mechanic). And yes I’ve replaced the fuel cap. So I’ll just go visit him again when it’s time to renew the smog cert with DMV. Now in its 10th year, it is mainly the car we use on short trips (<25 miles per week)… And we can get a break from insurance by reporting low annual mileage.

  • What are the details of the repair issues?

    • Exactly.

      What I’ve heard about are problems with door handles, drivetrain problems, and body squeaks/noises.

      Haven’t the drivetrain issues been solved? (There may be more early model cars that have not yet failed/been fixed.)

      Can someone dig out a list of problems?

      Does CR break down problems into life threatening, major inconveniences, and only annoying types of categories? Does a body squeak count the same against a car as a sticky accelerator that kills people?

      One of you people who spend time on the Tesla forums should have some info.

      • There seem to have been no less than five different drivetrain problems, each causing very subtly different noises. Battery main contactor (solved — but they aren’t replacing them proactively), drivetrain mounting (solved, being proactively fixed), internal shim in the gearbox (solved, proactive replacements), lubrication in the gearbox (solved, proactive replacements), and one which is proving stubbornly elusive. I do think they’re going to solve that last one as well.

        The battery main contactor seems to have been the “sudden failure” one which caused the car to stop being drivable for a few people. I think.

        I have had a drivetrain replacement, just last month, for one of those sounds (I’m honestly not sure which one, but apparently not the battery one).

        Apart from the drivetrain, the only known outstanding serious issue: “A” batteries (only on the earliest models; mine is Feb 2013 and is already a “B” revision) can’t Supercharge at top rates and show accelerated decay. “A” battery owners are irritated.

        I had a laundry list of other issues replaced under warranty.

        — The chargeport was loose around the charger. It was eventually replaced with a new chargeport — the new ones are a different plastics manufacturer with better tolerances.
        — I’ve had *four* Universal Mobile Connectors fail — they seem to have redesigned the latest one I got, so I’m hoping this one will work.
        — The electrical internals of the chargeport corroded and failed and had to be replaced — they weren’t attached correctly at the factory. I haven’t encountered anyone else who had this happen.
        — The A/C made a huge racket — the mounting was replaced with an insulating mounting (it was bumping against something else) — everyone had this fix
        — The side mirrors stopped being moveable due to rust — they were replaced with a revised part where the internal metals were properly coated with some ceramic or plastic. Particularly impressive since they made corrected replacement parts for my model, even though *they’re using a completely different part for new cars now* with a different wiring harness. This fix available upon request.
        — The 12V battery was replaced proactively. There was a bad batch of them in the early cars, *and* they decided to go with a better supplier with better specs.
        — The “first gen” door handle internals were replaced with the “second gen” door handle internals, when Tesla identified one of mine as behaving badly (I hadn’t noticed it)
        — The original lug nuts swelled due to being made of two metals and not really fit for outdoor use, and were all replaced with new lug nuts without the problem
        — A huge list of additional proactive internal shims and fixes for problems I didn’t even have, or at least didn’t know I had.

        See the common theme here? Every one of the problems was fixed under warranty *permanently* — they didn’t just replace the failed part, they replaced it with a *revised* part which didn’t have the same failure mode. There’s a lot of service bulletins about these revisions.

        Apparently they apply *all* service bulletins to the CPO cars before reselling them. I would have no worries about buying CPO car. I would also have no worries about buying any Tesla which is still under warranty.

        It does not make sense for Consumer Reports to rate Tesla reliability *by model year* since the company does not *use* model years. That said, the repair record for my 2013 Model S is getting better every year.

        • Another problem that some Tesla charge cords had was an under engineered plug. Some plugs were getting hot and the plastic around the pins was melting.

  • Tesla reliability issues is really the only thing giving me pause when considering purchasing a Model 3 or used Model S in the future. I am keeping a close watch on Consumer Reports reliability ratings for Tesla. I have never purchased a vehicle with less than average to above average reliability.

    • See my comment above. Tesla reliability issues have been very different from the reliability issues in other cars. Take it in for annual service and mention every issue you have. The majority of issues will be fixed *permanently* by replacing the original part with a redesigned part.

      • That sounds like pretty spectacular support. Tesla is very young. I’m assuming they learned a bunch of things, and the 3 is supposed to be simpler. I’m guessing Tesla isn’t going to have enough service stations to accomodate tons of problems. I’m not saying they won’t have any, but if they want to hit 500k cars a year, reliability has got to be important to them.

      • I don’t know if Tesla knew this going in, but starting with a luxury car selling in lower volume gave Tesla a platform for learning the fine details of car manufacturing which limited the number of side mirrors, etc. they had to repair/replace.

        I doubt these problems will turn up on future S and X models and none of them on the 3.

  • I have a 2014 Nissan Leaf. Just had the second battery check at the Nissan Dealership this past weekend. Got 5/5 stars on all aspects of the test. Still have 12/12 battery state of health bars. 31,000 miles on the car. Live in the western San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles (the hottest part of the valley, several days of 110 deg+ in the summer), and keep the car in a garage that is not air conditioned.

    Love the car. Expect to be driving it ten years from now.

    • Good to hear. Looking at purchasing a used Leaf here in subtropical South Africa, where it gets hot and stays hot for months at a time.

    • Thanks for the feedback. Do you keep the battery’s state of charge to within 30%-80% at all times? How about frequent DC charging? Just wanted to know as these are causes for shortened battery life according to AlexOnAutos.


      • On state of charge: Absolutely not. I charge it to 100% every single weekday, and have done so for the past 2 years, thanks to having the ability to charge it at work. I don’t particularly need to charge it to 100%, since a round-trip commute takes just 50% of the battery for me, but there isn’t an easy way to use the built-in timer to limit the charge, so I don’t bother worrying about it. Just plug it in and come back to it later in the day when I have time. And, again, after 2 years and 31000 miles of doing that, I have 12/12 bars and the battery check says its in excellent condition. *shrug*

        On DC charging: I’d say I quick charge roughly twice per month, on average.

        • David: set a timer for 7am to 6am at 80%. If you ever need 100%, press the timer override button. Done.

          • Thanks for the tip! Might try that out some time, but as of now I am unconvinced it would make a significant impact on the health of the 2014 Leaf battery, and I’d prefer to have that extra 20% range available.

  • The headline, the picture, and the first paragraph all point towards a big problem with the i3.
    Then it becomes clear that the problem is limited to a single model year for the i3. and that other BMW cars wer on the list.
    Then, almost as an afterthought:
    “The i3 wasn’t the only electric car on the list either. The 2012,
    2013, and 2015 versions of the Tesla Model S all have
    “much-worse-than-average” reliability, according to the magazine.”

    Ah. I see. Way to spin the news.
    Look, we’re all fans of Tesla here, but let’s not start wearing blinkers. Companies make mistakes. By admitting to those mistakes, they are able to learn from them.

  • Some facts would be useful.
    What were the primary reliability concerns for the various electric vehicles?
    That would help.

  • Fugly… really really fugly the BMW i3 is! That alone won’t make the resell unless you love fugly…

    • That hood design is *so* bizarre. Is it supposed to remind us of a warthog? Big “nostrils”, black hood on a blue car?…

    • How about a golf cart in steroids that cost an arm and a leg?

  • I have an early-2013 Tesla Model S. It honestly had a lot of problems in the first year — these turn out to all have been *design flaws*. They were replaced under warranty at no cost with *improved, redesigned parts*.

    Every single problem I’ve had so far has gone away thanks to redesigned parts, replacing old parts with new parts under warranty. This is a totally different experience from what I’m used to with other car manufacturers. I’ve never had to have one of the redesigned parts replaced.

Comments are closed.