I had a 2001 Oldsmobile Aurora that I paid $1100 for one year ago. It was a very nice car, even though it was 16 years old.

I have MS and driving has become kind of scary; I feel I am a danger to myself and everyone else on the road. So, when a new friend's ("Dan's") car broke down (hopelessly) and he couldn't get to work, I made him a deal. I told him that he could use my car as if it was his if he would drive me to appointments/shopping once or twice a week. His work schedule is such that he can do that as long as I avoid making appointments during certain hours. I kept paying the required liability insurance and the car remains in my name.

About a month ago, he gave me a ride to the store and I saw a warning on the dash that the oil pressure was low. He said, "Yeah, I just checked it. It's a quart low; I'll put oil in it when I get home." A mutual friend told me he said the same thing to him the next day.

Fast forward a week.

Dan called and told me that the car had up and suddenly died. The mutual friend (a mechanic) towed it home and checked it out. The oil was completely empty and dry, and the engine had seized. He tells me that it would cost significantly more than the car is worth to get it to run again. He confronted Dan, and Dan pretty much copped to lying to both of us, being very irresponsible, and killing my car. He apologized and said he owed me a car.

I told myself when we made this arrangement that it could cost me a car if he got in an accident since I only carry liability insurance, so I was kind of emotionally prepared. I decided that the friendship was worth trying to save, so I made him a deal. I told him that he could buy another car when he could and put it in my name (on paper only). Then I would register the car and continue to pay the insurance in return for chauffeur service. Alaska allows one auto to be registered for free if the owner qualifies for handicapped plates (which I do). Further, he could "buy me out" over time with driving and other easy work that I would "pay" at $20/hour until $1100 is reached (for which he has plenty of time). At that point, the car would be his without strings. He agreed.

Dan just received his and his daughter's Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend ($2200 total) and has been looking for a car for a few days. Now he's dodging my calls and I'm feeling screwed. I'm also going stir-crazy because I've been stuck home with no car for three weeks. My dividend was spent before all this happened, so buying a car for myself is not an option right now.

I'm at a loss. I enjoy Dan's company and I actually still care for him. I was hopeful that we'd get past this with little pain but now I'm afraid that's a pipe dream. I need transportation and I'd like to keep my friend.

What can I say to him when I see him again (probably this weekend) to possibly see my needs here and that not screwing me over could be in his best interest? I probably won't try to sue him even if a lawyer says I have a case, but I'm willing to threaten him with it.

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    @Walfrat No, I do not know, but the model is considered by many to be a lemon (PT Cruiser). Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 11:43
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    @Harper Random internet wisdom when I considered buying one. I got lots of "run away from this car" messages. Not scientific, I know, but I had run the same search string for several models that day, and the cruiser stuck out that way. And, a friend too (the mechanic). Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 4:25
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    Given the description you made of Dan, the dividend must have been spent by now paying debts or buying non-essential stuff, like a new mobile and TV. Commented Nov 18, 2017 at 1:34
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    @Jolenealaska Any updates? Very curious if any of the answers helped sort it out.
    – user3316
    Commented Nov 18, 2017 at 22:07
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    For future reference, if you see an oil light ON, you take the car to the garage immediately an oil change is cheap by comparison.
    – cybernard
    Commented Dec 29, 2017 at 19:07

4 Answers 4


Such are the problems of handing cars to people who are financially irresponsible.

Actually people do often forget the most difficult part of owning a car, is not buying it, but supporting the accruing costs of good maintenance.

A person who is not the owner, and/or a irresponsible one has often no interest on supporting those costs. They wont make regular maintenance and will delay any repairs, even essential ones as much as they can, as long as the car runs (or will make dodgy repairs) because:

  1. It is not their car - so "not their responsibility".
  2. They do not want to lose time over it.
  3. It implies they will have to foot the bill, which is their main goal to avoid.
  4. They actually might also not have available the money for taking it to the mechanic.
  5. Apparently, it does not seem an investment made on their behalf.

(I have seen it happen in my extended family, even using parts from a scrap yard which were totally inadequate for the car).

At the end of the day, both of you are responsible, when the oil situation happened both of you should have gone to the mechanic right away.

Try to negotiate a situation where your friend will pay half of a new car for you with a similar value, or simply paying half of the value of the old car.

In the future, as an old adage says "you never lend to others your wife and your car".

Out of topic, extending the answer. Owning a car is costly, I have been doing the math often:

Consider also all the costs of buying and owning a car (gas, insurance, taxes, repairs, proper maintenance), and balance it against not being able to drive it any more, remembering it hurts a car not driving it regularly over long distances. Depending on the country, the brand of the car, and the age, the cost of owning a car can be from 1.5k-4k yearly, and not factoring gas, you having available the money you paid for it, and the depreciation of the car.

At the end of the day, for old and sick people who does not drive big distances regularly, it might a more cost wise decision to do the monthly grocery shopping online, use Uber/cabs, pay friends to drive them around or simply hire a car for the day for doing the odd long-distance trip.

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    I'm learning the wisdom of this Commented Nov 18, 2017 at 1:15
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    I would add, never lend a car that you cannot aford to lose. There might be issues with insurance too. Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 8:44
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    F Ribero THAT I completely understand, Luckily, I understood that one even before I loaned the car. As much as I like "Dan", George has his number. Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 9:48

I am so sorry this has happened to you.

The major reason most decent people would not be returning your calls right now is guilt. I doubt he wants to hurt you; his initial behavior (driving you around) and response ("I'm owe you a car") were those of a decent person.

He's just irrevocably irresponsible and talking to you reminds him of that. Not many people like to face their faults so often, so... no answers.

I need transportation and I'd like to keep my friend.

I'm not sure you can rely on both of these things from the same person. If keeping your friend is a priority, you need to "forgive the debt" of the car. The first thing to do is to relieve him of his guilt to the extent that you can. A text something like this:

Hey Dan, I really want to repair our friendship. You made a mistake, and I don't want to throw away our friendship because of it. We all make mistakes. Can we talk and focus on whether we can save the relationship or not? Thanks.

I dropped the importance of transportation, because I'm guessing that is something he can't or has decided he won't commit to.

Threatening him with a lawyer's action will pretty much guarantee that you will never talk to him as a friend again.

If you can get to be friends again, you can maybe get him to agree to drive you around for a small fee, no other strings attached. But frankly, he's shown himself to be pretty irresponsible.

If you want to negotiate something (which I think might be difficult, but doable if you've become friends again), make sure everything is in writing.

If you need a car more than a friend, that's when the lawyer comes in. You have witnesses on your side.

Again, I'm sorry you're in this position. Good friends are not easy to come by. I wish you luck.

If you need to make different arrangements that require cash, is a GoFundMe page possible?


Your so-called friend killed your car and wriggles out of his promises.

Repeating some of your own points back at you:

  1. You did your friend a great favour.
    You gave him free transportation to go to work. Good for you. You got something back (until the oil ran out).

  2. The first car was starved of oil and died.
    Even after repeated timely warnings. This is neglect of another's property. Not good.

  3. You need a favour back and it was promised to you.
    Apart from the lying bit after being caught out, this is not too bad, yes?

  4. Your 'friend' not only lies, he does not keep his promises.
    An agreement was made. New car and all. But it fails to materialize. You are, painfully, stuck because of this.

Adding it all up, I see only one approach. Sadly.

  1. Stop expecting anything from your friend. You may care about him, I see him caring about himself only.

  2. Explain to him, brutally clear, what your problems are right now: No car, no transportation, and growing insecurity about your prospects.

You may want to do this in a separate, later conversation depending on how the previous point went down:

  1. Ask your friend how he feels about the whole situation. He may have legit reasons why it does not work for him, and he may be hesitant about coming clear because of your dependence. In fact, that very dependence may put him off.

Unless you are pleasantly surprised during the two previous and potentially painful points:

  1. Find another way to get what you need. This 'friendship' up until now went only one way. Either pull out entirely or settle down with what he deigns to share with you.

Best of luck... (And I'm still wondering how he is getting to work these days?)

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    For the most part, he's not getting to work. He's a personal care attendant with an agency. Because of his transportation issue, two of his clients have been reassigned. He gets to his last client by bus. Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 20:09
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    @Jolenealaska - Well, I can tell you why he hasn't bought you a car - he can't afford one. If he needs on for work, he'd buy one if he could. Whether he'd put it in your name or not is a separate question...
    – AndyT
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 11:14
  • @AndyT Yep, that is the problem. It's too bad, the poor guy could help me AND get paid for it if he could get his head out of his butt. Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 22:27
  • @AndyT My doctors have approved my PCA request. They will pay probably up to 25 hours/week if I were willing to hire "Dan". That ship will sail in about 12 hours. I'll choose another. I can get to and from medical appts anyway, but no shopping. George can help with that if "Dan" can still be saved. Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 7:44

It seems likely that Dan is dodging your calls because he's reluctant to meet his end of the deal. It also seems likely that while you could sue for damages that the case would be more expensive than it's worth.

More or less, the $1100 car with a year's depreciation would probably be valued at $700-800 and it sounds like there's a good chance that it may be "non actionable" meaning that even if you sue and win, if he doesn't have the money it doesn't really do you any good.

I am not a lawyer, just pointing out some of the more obvious stuff.

So, your least bad option is probably going to be honest communication with Dan. Stress that you're more concerned with getting to your doctor's appointments and to the grocery store, as well as repairing the damaged relationship, than you are about the car or the small sum of money owed. Taking a gentle approach may bring him around.

Something along the lines of:

Hey Dan, I really want to repair our friendship first and foremost. You know how badly I need transportation to the doctors' and the store, but I don't want to throw our friendship out over it.

I don't want this situation to ruin things for either of us. Let's talk and try to work things out.

Sometimes it's better to appeal to someone's better nature than to come out swinging. I know he kinda deserves it at this point, but it's likely to make him shut down and withdraw further.

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    Small claims court is supposed to be cheap ($40?) & fairly easy to enter (no lawyers & their fees), and with the way Alaska hands out cash to residents a winning judgement will eventually get paid. I would be very surprised if an already 15yr old $1,100 car depreciated at all in just one year, but maybe Alaska's weird, there are books with book values to look up. It sounds like small claims court would be the next logical step if nothing comes of appealing to "Dan," being friendly about it couldn't hurt, like "Sorry Dan buddy, but I got to get paid back, like you already agreed"
    – Xen2050
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 2:16

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