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I took part in a 10 day road trip across several European countries, with a group of friends and acquaintances. We traveled with several cars, and were sharing the fuel costs. I took part several times with mostly the same group (we organize it every year), and this was the first time I was the driver, and used my private car. I had three others riding in my car with me. They were more like acquaintances or distant friends, not my closest friends. I had much closer friends in the whole group, but they were driving their own (full) cars.

Half a day and a few hundred km after the start my car broke down in such a way it needed several days of repairs. I left it at a service station, continued the trip with a rental car, and we picked my repaired car up on our way back. (note that my car was not in a bad shape at all, so this event was totally unexpected)

However, that rental was really expensive. We didn't have many options to choose from on a Friday afternoon, and the cars were all high-end models with large daily rates. None of us knew anyone in the vicinity to borrow a car from, so this was the only solution to continue our journey. It's important to note that the accommodations were already payed for, which was not a negligible sum either.

Near the end of the trip, one of my three passengers volunteered to pay 1/4 of the rental costs, saying that it was nice from me to continue the journey (As I could have just returned home with public transport but didn't), and it would be fair for all in my car to contribute, and that I already had to pay a lot for the repairs anyway. The other two, however, took everything for granted, and didn't contribute anything. Their point was, that I agreed to take them with me if they pay for their ratio of the fuel.

How to handle such problems? I took part in many similar trips, and we never faced any expensive difficulties. We also never made official contracts, it's just matter-of-course that for very short trips in and around our town we don't handle any finances, and for long trips we share the fuel costs.

  • Talking about exact monetary contracts in case of accidents and other unforeseen events might seem awkward in a casual setting. Would it really be normal to show up before the trip with a long list of possible but highly unlikely scenarios and debate which costs should be shared and which shouldn't, and then when it happens, argue and rules-lawyer about which category it really belongs to?

  • Just dropping them off then and there, and letting them find a bus or train home (while making them lose a lot of money for the already payed-for overnight stays, event tickets, etc.) would have been rude and unfair in my opinion, and it would have driven my costs even higher, with less people to share the fuel costs with. Just cancelling the trip might have been somewhat less rude in my opinion, but I didn't want to cancel it for myself.

The dilemmas above made me ask this question here instead of at money.se.

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    Are you asking how to handle this specific situation after it has happened, or are you looking for a way to handle/prevent such situations in the future? – Kaspar Scherrer May 23 '18 at 14:13
  • @Cashbee : mainly about similar situations in the future. – vsz May 23 '18 at 14:19
  • What would 'handle' be in this case? It's a pretty broad question, especially considering the two examples of 'handling' you provide (planning everything in advance/cancelling the trip). What Interpersonal Skill or Interpersonal Interaction are you struggling with here, and asking for help with? What is your goal, what would you like to get better at? – Tinkeringbell May 23 '18 at 18:11
  • @Tinkeringbell : Handling would mean arranging the trip so that they would be willing to contribute, without looking like someone who is too demanding / only caring about the money / being unfair. This would mean what and how (and in what style) to discuss with them before the trip, and how to talk with them in something like the depicted scenario. – vsz May 23 '18 at 18:36
  • what would you have done if you were in the car alone? – WendyG May 24 '18 at 12:59
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If you are friends with these people, before even committing to a rental car, simply ask them: "We need to either rent a car or abort the whole trip. Can we agree on splitting the cost if we go for the rent option?"

Even if you and your friends are splitting petrol costs, you still have a significant risk in this road trip by providing your own car. You are doing them a favour and should not bear the entire financial burden if the worst should happen. Think of it like this; if you decided to continue the trip by train, would you be obligated to pay for everyone's tickets? You say that it would be 'unfair', but assuming your passengers are all grown-ups, they should at least be aware of the risks involved in taking such a long trip, including the risk of being stranded somewhere. It should not be seen as unreasonable to expect your friends to pitch in for the rental car.

If you are concerned about it happening again, have a chat with your passengers well in advance of the next trip. Agree among yourselves that if the worst should happen, that everyone has an affordable Plan B to either continue the trip or get back home. A long meticulous list won't be necessary. It's not being stingy on your part, it's just sensible forward planning.

  • The only problem is the first paragraph, because aborting the trip wouldn't have been a preferable option for me. So it might backfire if I indicate willingness to abort the trip, and after it's voted, I still continue. – vsz May 23 '18 at 14:21
  • Ah I see. It's not a happy scenario, but would there have been options for you to stay behind and let the others rent a car themselves? – user8671 May 23 '18 at 14:25
  • @vsz Once you ask the question, it's perfectly clear that once somebody declines to split the rental cost, they're going back on their own, even if part of the group continues on. What you're doing is building a sufficient group to share the car rental cost, and the others can either change their mind and pitch in or go back on their own. Of course, it's good to make this explicit at the point of the rental, not after the trip. – dbkk May 30 '18 at 18:22
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First of all, you can phrase the shared costs as sharing "road trip expenses" [1] instead of just participating in fuel. It will be more general, and if something like that happens - it ideally covers it.

Why only ideally? Because people can still argue about it, and it will be a matter of how much you're willing to argue/fight about it - this situation is much more difficult with friends, since you probably don't want to risk losing them. But on the other hand, I believe that with friends it will be more easy to settle it up.

In a case like yours, when there was no talk about unexpected things and if they don't want to contribute, you can tell them:

I know this is not what we agreed, but it was a big unexpected expense for me, and I would really appreciate it if you could contribute as you can/feel to help me with that.

If you don't think they're over sensitive about it, you can also add:

  • Because it might sound passive-aggressive (maybe that's what you'd want).

I didn't want it to affect the continuing of road trip, so I didn't offer to cancel the trip or demand everyone's contribution as a condition[, but it's a real burden on me, and I'd like to lighten it a bit, with your help].

  • About the part in brackets [] it really depends on how you feel and your relation with those people.

[1] You can state that it's for fuel and unexpected things, for example flat tire.
If you see they are troubled about it, you can add that of course that if it's something "regular" or something that has to do with periodical care for the car - it's on you. So they won't get the filling that you might "throw" on them your car problems.

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As a group of adults this should definitely have been a shared problem, not your problem alone. It was unfair of them to put the burden of hiring the car on you and at that point you could have instigated a group discussion: "Well guys, what do you think we should do now? Are you happy to split the costs of a rental car?"

In general it's far from unlikely that mechanical issues will occur on a long roadtrip. In future I'd recommend agreeing with the passengers beforehand whether you will get breakdown cover for the area of travel (and split that cost) or share the risk of being stranded and facing unplanned expenses.

Personally I think the guys that won't pay are out of line, but if there was no prior agreement on costs the best you can do is email/text/whatsapp them saying "I've split the trip costs 4 ways, here's the calculation, your share is £xxx. Please transfer it/paypal it to xxxxxx" If they refuse I guess there's little else you can do, but you can at least make clear that they've left you in the lurch.

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As I see it, the problem was not with you, but with your passengers. I would immediatley offer to cover my share I was in your car.

The only thing to change in your behaviour is to discuss the costs of renting a car before doing so. And maybe even discussing that in the whole group. You were several cars, so I assume over 10 people? If you summed up the rental and the fuel of all cars, and divided that among all participants, that would be a fair way to deal with it, as you all get the same trip our of it.

To me it feels like you could escalate things with your passengers, if need be. That is, offer to rent a car together, and if someone refuses, leave them behind. As you stated, there was public transport back, so they would not be stranded in nowhere. You state that this would be too rude, but being forced to pay for them is very rude as well, so I would think of it as a fair option!

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