Looking to buy a BMW I3 REX

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New member
Jan 10, 2019
Hello everyone, I'm obviously new this forum. I'm currently a Prius owner. I've had my car for nearly 2 years, zero issues out of her, done maintenance as scheduled at the dealership. However, the overall buying experience was a nightmare. Long story short, the dealership tried screwing me over on the value of my trade in. Anyway, I was pretty much forced into getting the Prius.

For the last couple months, I've been doing so much research on EVs. I've been bitten by the bug I guess. I'm tired of paying $25 a week to fill up my car, I'm tired of dishing out money for oil changes and routine maintenance every few months. My commute to work is an hour away, in total, I'm driving 109 miles a day, 5 to 6 days a week, not counting road trips with the family on the weekends/time off. I really want a EV, however the Tesla is to far out of my price range and honestly, I don't think they have the reliability behind their brand yet. The other EVs on the market are either to out of my price range or the actual EV range makes me to nervous to take the plunge and invest. We've got a decent amount of charging points here in Massachusetts. About a 20 mins from my house and about half hour away from work. The only car on the market that really intrigues me is the BMW I3 REX. I'm not picky about the actual trim/model details. I just want something that gets me from point A to point B without using as much gas as possible or dealing with range anxiety. The REX in my opinion offers the backup plan for when you run out of juice and paying a few bucks at the pump for that assurance is worth it.

As of right now, they are a number of 2015s for sale in my general area and from what I've read online, it seems thats one of the best models to date as that they've been on the road for a little bit to prove their reliability. Quiet a few I've seen online run between $15,000-$17,000.

What makes me nervous from everything that I've read online, people either hate the car or love the car. And they are some who've had little to no issues to some who've had major issues. One being the power that the REX doesn't give the battery enough power when going up steep grades/large hills and in my area, they are several large hills that you really have to floor the pedal to get up. Then they are stories I've read where dealers either don't know enough about the car or they try sticking it to the potential buyers. And they're is the tire issues that seems to be a common problem, which I've look online for the sizes for the REX and I found Bridgestone Ecopia for the front and back, totaling around $538 on ebay sold by Tirehero. I don't know what many miles these tires can go up too. So I'm a little weary about having to replace them every 12,000-20,000 miles from what I hear is a common issue amongst most owners.

Anyway, I'm looking for advice on rather or not if this is the right choice for me. Any feedback and advice is welcomed!!
The REx model was designed to occasionally extend the range enough to reach a charging location, not for routine daily usage although many REx owners do just that. Your Prius would be more fuel efficient than a REx while the REx engine is running (only 35-40 mpg). A 2015 REx is rated by the E.P.A. for 72 miles range before the REx engine starts. In cold weather and/or at highway speeds, the REx engine would start before 72 miles, so in your commute, you would be running on the REx generator through about half of your commute distance in cold weather unless you could charge at work. You'd probably save a little on gasoline costs, but not very much.

If you want to commute on electricity rather than gasoline (and we all should), a Chevy Bolt would likely be the most appropriate choice for the money. A used Bolt would be more expensive to buy than a 2015 i3 REx, but you might be surprised by how little the total cost of ownership might differ considering that you would have no gasoline costs. A Bolt could easily complete your commute even in cold weather. Parts and service would almost certainly be less expensive than for an i3.
Unless you can recharge at least some each day, you're going to end up using a little gasoline. The newer versions, with the larger battery, can probably do that without running the engine, at least when the weather is milder. The total range does go down a significant amount when it's really cold out.

The REx engine still comes with oil changes, muffler, coolant, and spark plugs, etc. It's just that there are two of them, and the volumes needed are smaller. The engine is only in the order of 34hp. The electric motor is 170hp...while 34hp is fine for cruising at moderate speeds, some of the faster roads around Boston often are traveling closer to 75mph unless gridlocked. WHen you start going faster, and use more power than the REx can supply, your battery charge level will drop. Otherwise, it will try to maintain the level. It isn't really setup to recharge the battery, only to try to restore the level when it was turned on. Unless you recode the car, that's 6%. If you recode it, you can set the REx to turn on at 75%. The power required as you go faster can overwhelm the REx. But, the REx never drives the wheels...it runs a generator. If your battery level is allowed to drop below 6% is when you'll start to have the car shut down things to preserve the battery. So, motor power is always coming from the batteries, and the REx engine, when on, tries to limit that amount, and sometimes, slowly build it back up to that magic turn on time you engaged (it's automatic at 6%, but could be higher if you manually turned it on).

Something like a Prius can just keep driving as long as you refill the fuel tank, and can go quite a long ways before that's necessary. The i3 isn't designed or built that way.

IMHO, a 109-mile daily commute, unless you can recharge at work, is asking a bit much. Yes, it will do it, but you may not like the inconvenience. The newest ones, won't have depreciated anywhere as much, could. The car is a lot of fun to drive.

Tires will likely wear out about 20K, depends on how you drive it. Also, you will want to buy a set of winter tires/wheels for the thing. If you choose one with the 20", summer tires, that would be mandatory, but still highly recommended if yours has 19", even the all-seasons (which I consider a compromise, all seasons). All seasons are much better than even 5-years ago, but still can't approach a good winter tire (I think the Nokia R3 is probably the best one that fits), but the OEM Bridgestones aren't bad. So far this year, Boston has had essentially no snow, but winter tires just stop and turn better when it's cold out, too. Throw in some ice and snow, and they're superior to an all season or summer tire, in the case of the later, hugely.
Man, what a commute. I'd die if I had to drive that far every day! I hate driving the 20-ish miles that I have to drive 4 days in the week.

You could drive your 109mi commute in the i3 REx without issue. You could either let the car do the REx management (wait until the battery drops until 6.5% SOC), or you could manually engage it at any point below 75%* and use it only while cruising on a highway/freeway. Now, I have the i3 REx, and I've used it to make some longer trips, including a 350mi one, as well as relatively shorter ~100mi trips. The problem isn't that the car could drive that distance, it's the convenience of driving that. The i3 REx's gas tank is only 2.3 gallons* (9L to be exact). Let's take the EPA's official range rating which is pretty spot on for typical American driving patterns of 72 miles. 109-72=37 miles (at least) on the REx. Depending on how risky you'll cut it, you may leave yourself a bigger battery buffer and burn more gasoline to keep a higher state of charge. The REx engine get's around 40MPG in my experience (EPA rates it at 39MPG). This means that you'll be burning approximately 1 gallon of gas per day**. If you commute 6 days a week, you will need to refill about 3 times a week-not exactly convenient. Now, things look better if you can recharge at work (or whatever your destination is), and, depending on how long you can charge, you may not burn any gasoline at all, if you could recover that 40 or so miles while at work.
The tables turn slightly if you can get into a 2017 or 2018 with a 94Ah battery, this battery is now good for 100mi electric range, and depending on how much you hyper mile it, you might even make it to 109mi without burning a drop of gasoline.

Personally, I love the i3 REx, it's a fantastic vehicle, that definitely fits my needs. I find the little 38HP 2-cylinder engine to be plenty adequate for what I've thrown at it. That being said, it's not the car I would take on a 109mi trip daily, unless I had the 2017-18 94Ah (or the new 2019 120Ah) model. If you did a 109mi trip, say once a week, then the i3 REx would be a perfect car, but going to the gas station multiple times a week would get old for me super quickly. I've taken my car on a couple of 100+ mile trips, and using the REx worked out phenomenally, but if that were my daily drive plan, I'd look into destination charging options (to reduce the amount of gasoline I'd burn therefore making it so I'd have to fill up, say once a week), or simply another vehicle. The car comes with a standard 120V charge cord, so if your work building has 120V outlets outside, you could plug in (maybe bring an extension cord?). While slow, over the course of an 8 hour work day it would add significant range, enough to possibly cancel out needing the REx. Then, you could use the REx on the weekends to drive how ever far you want- just don't let the battery buffer get too low. On my long trips I start the REx at around 70% so I can keep the battery up, since I know I will be burning gasoline regardless, there's no point in delaying it.

*The default limits in the U.S.A. is that the REx only turns on when the battery is at 6.5% (or lower), and the gas tank is 1.9 gallons (7.2L). Getting around those limitations is easy, as it's software only. The procedure to unlock that is well documented.

**You might think this is great, driving 109 miles with one gallon of gas, and it is! In my old car before my i3 I would burn about a gallon of gas a day driving a much smaller distance.
Before addressing your concerns one by one,

Apart from the looks that people either love or hate, a majority of the reasons people are on opposite sides of the spectrum is b/c the car is very misunderstood even by owners. Know what you're getting into. Good that you're inquiring in this forum. I'm going to coin the phrase, "The i3 isn't for everyone, but it's for more people than who will admit."

The reason for the coach doors is to provide more space. The design allows to delete the B pillar which is a waste of space if you can get rid of it. For a small car, saving space goes a long way. People don't see the benefit of it. Most will just deal with it. In the real world for instance, it is a pain for a lot of people who park next to other cars and need to get their kid out. I do this regularly and love being able to just turn around and take the kids out w/o having to close my door, go to the back, open their door. I do have to do the little dance where I take my kid out, put her/him in the front seat, scoot over, close their door, take them out and then close my door. Is it a pain, when you get used to it, you might learn to love it. For me it's no big deal. If you're of larger physical stature and your kid is bigger, it might be impossible. Coach doors are also horrible if you're dropping off a rear passenger in the case of ride sharing or dropping off a child who is expected to get out on their own. It's pretty much impossible.

There are space saving features everywhere. There's no back of seat storage b/c the seats are really thin and still have indents to provide additional knee space for rear passengers. There's no third seat b/c the middle seat would've been super tiny anyway. Better to accommodate 2 adults super comfortably than try to squeeze in a third passenger like some of the competitors.

You shared concern about the car not having enough power on gas to go up a hill. You have to understand how the system works. It's not a shortcoming. It's the design. The car is primarily electric with a gas backup. There's no gas engine. The gas strictly powers the generator which creates more electricity. If you're putting more load or demands on the car (like going up hills at speed), you'll use up more battery than the gas can generate. At some point, you'll lose so much charge that you'll run on gas only which the car is not designed to do and that's why it'll only go 40mph. For any lengthy demands on the battery, you want to have ample battery even when running on gas. The reason the gas tank is there vs a larger battery is b/c the generator weighs significantly less than a battery providing the same range. Remember that an empty battery doesn't weigh any less than a full battery. So efficiency calls for only having enough range that you're going to use.

Most of the issues are software related and on the earlier models. I'd stay away from cars that have less than 3k miles that are 2 years old. Those aren't diamonds. Those have just been sitting on the lot with their batteries neglected.

i3's in the teens won't have any packages, so those are definitely base models of the 2015's unless you're getting one with high mileage. I'd consider 20k miles for a 2015 high mileage. EV's typically were used as second vehicles with people a bit weary about it's use and so mileage on these cars aren't nearly as high as a regular gas vehicle. A 2015 vs a 2016 means that you are either out of warranty or nearing it by months or weeks. There may be value in a warranty for you. But then again, if you're spending less than 20k on a car, then maybe it's not as big of a deal for you. As far as value is concerned, the best value will be an i3 REX with less than 20k miles with 2 of the 3 packages for $20-21k USD. Value, meaning more for the money - not necessarily the cheapest. Nothing wrong with getting one under $20k as you mentioned the main purpose is commute from A to B. I would like to say though that with a daily commute of 100 miles, the love you have for the car should matter more. I used to have the same commute 3 hours a day at about 90 miles per day. Now down to about 70 miles/day but still glad I love my car.

The tires wear out quickly b/c people get so excited about the torque and you will too. Eventually, you'll tone down your driving and your tires will be just fine. They won't last as long as 2002 Toyota Corolla which could be over 50k miles, but it is what it is. Just know what you will for certain be getting tires more often than maybe you are used to and that you will not have any other option other than the single Bridgestones that you already noted. To offset the cost of the tires, realize that you'll be spending a lot, I mean tons less on brakes than you would be on a gas car. I don't expect to change out my brakes for literally 100k miles. I barely use them. The i3 has the #1 most aggressive brake regeneration system. Unless you can't time it or you're going downhill, you can come to a stop with regular driving w/o having to use your brakes, literally. So you'll be using them 1/10 of the time or less compared to gas cars and significantly less even compared to other EV's.

Just be aware of everything I've mentioned and you'll be just fine. Good that you're doing your research, but if you didn't instantly fall in love with the car, it may not be for you. Again, it's not for everyone but it's for more people than who will admit. Good luck with your decision whatever it may be.
I mostly owned BMWs in my career as a driver, plus an Opel Corsa ("inherited" from my wife). I've also spent significant time in VWs (T3/T4 Caravans), Audis (an A6 Front wheel drive) and a Mustang (which I had when I lived in the US for a while).

So here's why I like BMWs:


I've owned exclusively 3 series BMWs (E30, E36, E46, E91). I like the way they handle, their small turn radius, the balance, their just-right tendency to oversteer and many other aspects. The Opel was a catastrophe in comparison: Massive influence of the engine on steering, prone to lifting a wheel because of its uneven weight distribution, and a much larger turn radius, despite being smaller.

The A6 (20o9 model) also had significant tendencies to understeer. It handled like a heavy, big car. I think if you go Audi, you really should go Quattro.


Sufficient power, highly fuel efficient. BMW was to my knowledge the first to offer this combination, though others have caught up. My current 320 diesel engine consumes on average 5.2l/100km (~45 MPG), at 184hp. That is a real-use figure which includes autobahn, where i might not always drive 130km/h, and local traffic.


OK, BMW makes some cars that I think are really butt-ugly (I am looking at you, X6). However, they also have a lot of cars that emphasize a combination of elegance and sportiveness, which I enjoy. My current favorites include the 6 series coupes, the 5 series station wagons, and the 3 series station wagons. By comparison, Audi either comes off as too aggressive (from the front, I am not a big fan of the gigantic single frame designs they have done for a while now) or too neutral (from all other angles).


In the 18 years I've owned BMWs, I had two unexpected repairs:

On my E46, a turbo broke around 110.000km, which cost close to 1.700 € to repair.
On the same car, two high pressure injectors failed at around 105.000km, which cost around 1.200 € to fix.
Otherwise, no troubles. My first three BMWs were used cars, which I bought at 4 to 6 years of age. I bought my current one new from the factory seven years ago, and we didn't have any problems with it.

Again, comparing to the Opel, which in its first four years had the following major defects:

Alternator broke (500 €)
Both headlights broke (due to low-quality materials they corroded quickly) (400 € each)
Both sleeves on the transmission shaft broke (300 € each)
Radiator broke (550 €)