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Based on television shows, it seems borrowing tools from neighbors is a potential minefield. I need to power wash my front and back porches and the siding of my house. My neighbor has a power washer that he uses to do this on his house 2 times a year. In the ideal world I would borrow the power washer every year or two (I don't care if my siding and porch are a little dirty).

Details that may be relevant: I live in a highly urban area of a major US city in a block of row homes. I have no space to store a power washer, but the neighbor has a shed in his back yard. I see the neighbor regularly (he likes to sit on his porch) and we happily chat for a few minutes. We have been into each other's houses a few times.

Can I ask to borrow the power washer and if so how? I would plan on using it for a few hours and returning it clean and dry, is there anything else I should do? Is payment in beer (he drinks beer on his porch) appropriate?

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Sure you can

Not an American but having lent and borrowed many tools to and from many different people from different cultures, this seems universal:

I would plan on using it for a few hours and returning it clean and dry, is there anything else I should do? Is payment in beer (he drinks beer on his porch) appropriate?

This is fine. Simply ask him if you can use it, thank him in advance and promise him the beer.

Where things go wrong (in my experience), the "minefield" bit if you will, is when people borrow things but don't use them right away, or return them in a worse state. Or when people excessively borrow and don't return the favor when called upon. I've never seen any argument over something that was borrowed once, promptly returned and accompanied by beer.

It could be that your neighbor has some bad experience lending things though, so he might deny your request, or be a little firm on cleaning/returning. If he denies your request, just accept it and say you understand, no harm done. Otherwise, just do as he requests, he'll appreciate that.

Edit: As @StianYttervik points out, this is something to keep in mind:

I'd also add, be very aware of the possibility of your having to replace the power tool in question. Don't borrow toys you cannot afford to replace...

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If you talk that regularly, then you can certainly ask, as long as:

  1. You give him a clear expectation that he'll get it back by X day/time and stick to that.

  2. You let him know you'll return it clean and refueled, and stick to that.

  3. It costs about 60 bucks a day to rent one from the local big-box store, so maybe a twelve-pack is appropriate? Make it worth his while but never go over half the value of rental.

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Douwe's answer is good. I just wanted to add that I've been in the exact position as you before, and I opted to request to borrow a willing lender's pressure washer from a community site called Nextdoor (not affiliated). I simply made a post asking if anyone had equipment I could borrow and someone responded. You may have access to a similar neighborhood website via an HOA Facebook group or town forum.

While nothing is expected by the lender when you borrow (except that the item be returned in the same or better condition), it is certainly nice to return the gesture if possible. I opted to provide a small tip to show my thanks. Much cheaper than buying or renting the equipment, and everybody wins.

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I would like the item returned better than when I loaned it out with anything that it could use if needed. Such as drill bits if I borrowed a drill and include a bag if possible to store it in. If I loaned out my car. I would appreciate it if it is filled with gas when returned or washed. There is nothing worse than getting a car back with an empty tank of gas and cigarettes' butts on the floor.

A lawnmower with the blades cleaned and sharpened or at least cleaned and in good working order if borrowed. If the person drinks, then giving a 6 pack or a case is a nice gesture. They may have you stick around and surprise you with something else. Giving is contagious and is a good thing. You will find that if you help somebody out in need that they won't forget it and bring it up in the company.

Borrowing anything can be like an ice breaker to make friends to show that you can be trusted. There is nothing better than a neighbor becoming someone that you can count on. So don't blow it by breaking something and not repairing it or forgetting to return it back.

Lastly, the neighbor allowed you to use whatever it was and not someone else that you know who may ask you for it. Their reputation to the owner is not as important as yours and that is something to consider.

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