Hooniverse Asks: Have You Ever Bought a Car from a Friend or Family Member and Lived to Regret it?

They say keep your friends close and your enemies closer. When it comes to buying something as expensive and potentially fraught with pitfalls as a car, hopefully those close friends won’t turn into closer enemies.
Buying a car from a friend or family member can certainly tax that relationship should something go wrong. Today we’re looking for the successes and the tragedies of when you have had to deal—in the most literal sense—with those closest to you in the purchase of a car or truck. Have you ever done so, and how did that all work out?
Image: achlink.net

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  1. Maymar Avatar

    Bought? No, the one car I’ve bought from a friend was also $100, so I had zero expectations beyond that it was cheap and currently ran.
    On the other hand, I tool over driving my wife’s old Accent when we moved in together and only needed one car. I despised it. She did not care for me despising it. We’re both much happier now that it died and we had legitimate reason to replace it.

  2. GTXcellent Avatar

    The only vehicle I’ve bought from family, is a ’95 Dodge Avenger that I bought for $100 from my brother, who got the car handed down to him from my Mom who bought it new. I made MiSSus GTXcellent drive it for about a year as it got twice the mileage that her Jeep did (and she HATED every single day being stuck behind the wheel of that garbage wagon). We then gave it to her nephew (who drove it about a month before the timing belt broke).
    To answer, no. No regrets at all.

  3. Fred Talmadge Avatar
    Fred Talmadge

    I got a Fiat 600 for free, it ran but barely, but the electrics were all messed up. After a couple of weeks with no progress and waning interest, I gave it to a Fiat nut up the road from me. Never saw it again.

  4. Alff Avatar

    <== Took possession of great grandma's car by virtue of being the "car guy" in the extended family. No regrets, I knew it would need to be resurrected. However, I now have a car whose secondary market consists entirely of one family. I'm obligated to keep this one for a very long time.

  5. kogashiwa Avatar

    Seems to be a theme here. Only vehicle I bought from family was a Nissan Hardbody I bought from my dad for $1000 when I was in tough times. It had a lot of km on it, but was very reliable considering, drove pretty well, and lasted me three or four years by the end of which it was so rusty the rear wheel wells were about double the factory size. Sold it for $500. Very good truck. One of the best vehicle deals I’ve had.

  6. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    I bought my dad’s S10 for $1. No complaints. I bought an XJ Cherokee from my dad’s friend for $1. No complaints. I bought a ’98 Skylark from a friend for $1500. No complaints (aside from it being a ’98 Skylark).
    I “sold” my motorcycle to my dad to raise my checking balance to get my mortgage, and then “bought” it back after closing. I “sold” my other motorcycle to a friend at the same time for the same reason, and then sold it to a different friend, and gave the first friend his money back.
    I gave an MR2 to a neighbor who got it running, and then got it impounded. No one ever came after me, so he must have transferred the title to his name before he got it impounded. That was good.
    I gave a Fiero (scrap) to the random Fiero guy who would stop by and chat for a while. That one pissed me off a bit when I found it on craigslist for $600 before he removed it from my driveway. What bothered me wasn’t that he was trying to turn a quick buck on the free Fiero. What bothered me was that it was still at my house, and someone might think that I was the one who thought it was worth $600.

  7. JayP Avatar

    I picked up that Passat from a pal for free.
    I really wish I’d checked it before I drug that damn thing home. Now I wonder how much it’ll cost to drag it out of my driveway.

  8. theskitter Avatar

    Bought my dad’s ’92 Accord and drove it for 13 years.
    I regret letting it rust away.
    Bought my friend’s ’02 Insight.
    After I told him to buy it.
    We agree it’s terrible.
    I may be slowly getting attached to it.
    I’ve at least mostly adjusted to how incredibly slow it is.
    Note: It is not dangerously slow.
    Anyone who says that about a modern car is the dangerously slow element.

  9. engineerd Avatar

    The only vehicle I’ve ever bought from a friend or family was my first car. For $400 I got a 1984 Mercury Topaz with the 2.3L engine mated to a 5-speed manual. Other than eating CV boots on an annual basis, it was a good car for the time I had it.
    I’ve only sold one car to a friend. I needed it gone and he needed wheels, so I sold him my ’87 Crown Vic wagon. He drove it for a few months and then sold it to his uncle for what he bought it from me.

  10. Alan Cesar Avatar
    Alan Cesar

    I helped an aunt-and-uncle-in-law buy not one, but two different sub-$1000 cars with the requirement that they “last us a year,” and performed the necessary initial repairs on them. It’s now two years after the first vehicle was bought and I just completed the second brake job on it. This woman apparently is heavy on the left pedal. Now the wiper blades don’t work half the time, there’s various other little shit starting to go wrong with it, and their financial situation hasn’t improved, which means I get regular requests to fix said shit.
    So. I didn’t buy or sell a car to a family member, but I do sometimes regret being the family car guy. Fortunately, most of them live an hour or more away, and I’ve stopped doing house calls. Want me to fix your shit? You come to me. Bring beer, help my wife watch the kids, and leave me the fuck alone.

    1. Fred Talmadge Avatar
      Fred Talmadge

      It’s for that reason that when someone asks my opinion on what car to buy I always say Camry or Accord. I don’t mind helping friends work on their cars but I don’t want to get in trouble for my lame idea about why a MG TD is great deal or how nice a Audi is.

  11. Tanshanomi Avatar

    Bought a ’71 Skylark 350 from my older sister. No complaints. Drove it for years, then gave it to my best friends younger brother when he turned 16. He drove it for a couple of years, put a big motor in it. Eventually, the rust got bad enough that he junked it and sold the drivetrain.

  12. Alan Cesar Avatar
    Alan Cesar

    My answer to the question is no. I did not live.

  13. Tanshanomi Avatar

    When I found the CL125S in Lawrence, KS, the seller didn’t have a title. As a Missouri resident, there would have been no way for me to get a title, but in Kansas, vehicles over 35 years old are “antique” and can be purchased on a bill of sale. My brother-in-law, who is a Kansas resident, bought the bike as a favor to me, applied for and got a KS title, and then sold it to me with paperwork that Missouri would accept. Unfortunately, HE lived to regret it, because his county assessor keeps sending him annual property tax bills for it, even though he’s sent them a copy of the bill of sale to me and a photocopy of the current MO title. I feel bad he’s still dealing with that hassle for helping me out.

    1. engineerd Avatar

      He gets a property tax assessment on a motorcycle?

      1. Tanshanomi Avatar

        You pay property tax on all titled vehicles in both Missouri and Kansas.

        1. engineerd Avatar

          Interesting. Is this instead of or in addition to the annual registration?

          1. Tanshanomi Avatar

            In addition. Registration is a state thing, property tax is assessed by the county.

          2. gerberbaby Avatar

            Oh great. somebody in the Minnesota Legislature just saw this thread and is crafting a bill to include vehicles on our property tax statements.

          3. Tanshanomi Avatar

            It’s a holdover from a tax structure that reflected rural farming culture. When farm implements and vehicles took over for draft animals, they were included with livestock and crops in the valuation of property.

          4. MINIac Avatar

            We have the same thing in Virginia. I was quite surprised when I moved here from Wisconsin.

  14. mdharrell Avatar

    I regret nothing.

  15. Tanshanomi Avatar

    After the Escort wagon’s head gasket went, I sold it to a friend for $1. He put some of that gasket sealer goop in it and gave it to his son. It worked well enough for his son to drive it for about another year, while he saved up a decent down-payment. Then he got $500 for it on a trade in. Worked out for everyone, except the random guy who called me about six months later and said he’d bought it from a buy-here-pay-here lot for three grand, and wanted maintenance records. I told him I wanted nothing to do with him or the car.

  16. Manxman Avatar

    I try to avoid buying and selling cars to friends and family but when I have I didn’t have any misgivings. Except for the Nissan van I gave my dead beat brother in law who traded it for a broken down pickup without giving me a heads up or a chance to buy it back.

    1. Dabidoh_Sambone Avatar

      Life lessons learned. I sold my BMW Z3-M to a friend with a few cosmetic hickies but otherwise serviceable. Problem is, he knew I’d picked it up for $4500 and dammitall that’s what he thought I’d sell it to him for. He paid the $7500 I asked, then needled me about for years to the point where I wanted to burn his house down with that car in his garage. What I’m wondering is this: why should he think it’s logical for me to sell it to him for the same ridiculously low price that I got it for? Where’d this concept come from that when fate smiles benevolently upon one person that they’re then obliged to spread it around?
      Ironically, he makes like 3x more than I do …

  17. I_Borgward Avatar

    Usually, such transactions go the other way with me. One that particularly stands out is a ’67 Buick that I’d mechanically nursed along for several years. A guy I know who’d suffered through a lot needed a cheap ride, so he got it for $300.
    The plaintive broken-car phone calls started almost immediately, soon culminating in the Starter Death March. The thing wouldn’t crank, and I diagnosed the starter motor as the culprit. I extracted its filthy carcass and said, here, take this to my starter guy for a repair. DON’T, as in DO NOT get a cheap-o rebuild from (insert low-budget parts store chain here), and whatever you do, DO NOT give up your factory original Delco starter for the measly $10 core deposit.
    Did he heed a single bit of my advice? (insert cynical laughter here)
    The original starter motor was gone. I then installed, removed and re-installed no less than THREE crap rebuilds, each failing within days. At least the fourth one finally took, but that was another four evenings shot to hell by the time I was through.
    I no longer sell cars without this express condition: This vehicle does NOT come with a Perpetual Service Plan.

    1. I_Borgward Avatar

      (I dimly recall telling this tale previously. Pardon the retread.)

  18. Jaap Avatar

    A neighbour inherited a Rover 3500 (P6) but he was to long to fit in properly. At the time, he drove a Simca 1304 Break. Pitty, isn’t it?

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      How tall was he to not fit in a P6? My 6’11” friend had no problem.

  19. Citric Avatar

    Bought an ’84 Civic for $20 and it was with me through college. Kinda miss that car actually.

    1. Evil Genius Avatar
      Evil Genius

      pity you weren’t in it when it was compacted as trash

  20. Sean McMillan Avatar
    Sean McMillan

    I bought a 92 cavalier from a friend for 800, drove it a couple of years, then it it got t-boned when a guy ran a red light, got 2k from the insurance co. A lot of that went to the hospital unfortunately. Ambulance rides and emergency rooms are expensive. And I only needed a few stitches. still profited by 600
    A few cars later I bought a 280 zx from a friend of a friend (really rusty beater) for 300, replaced power steering belt, distributor and radiator, drove it for a couple of years, then engine fire. put it out quickly, drove it home on 5 cylinders. replaced injector and wiring, drove it for 6 months more, then another engine fire. Said “fuck it”, sold it for 300, broke even more or less
    bought a 96 ranger for 2k from same friend of friend,who I should add is actually a good mechanic that I trust, and assured me that he wanted to keep it for himself because he knew the owner and had done all the maintenance on it. 6 months later, timing belt and idler went, 6 months after that heater control valve went, resulting in my wife blowing the head gasket. Then it was a freeze plug,, then it was the thermostat housing, then it never ran quite right and I got rid of it for 600

  21. crank_case Avatar

    A friend gave me her Skoda Felicia Combi when I really needed a car. I’d had a string of bad luck, I had this gorgeous silver NB Eunos RS (a JDM version of the 2nd gen Miata 1.8, but with some nice additions like lighter flywheel, higher rev limit, additional bracing, ohlins dampers etc) and some idiot without insurance piled into the back of it, but I managed to replace it with another 1.8 but a less special “S” version. This unfortunately did not have an immobilizer like the RS and before I could get round to getting it fitted, that car got stolen less than a month later. So I bought a wee Fiat Cinquecento as a stop gap, simple basic honest motoring that put a smile on your face. Sure I’d stepped down big time, but hey I can live with this I figured. Then the engine on that died due to tappets problems (which I’d actually bought a full set of replacements for and still have in my shed) and a oil breather issue but hadn’t had time to sort (see a pattern here), so I needed wheels at short notice. It wasn’t even so much money even though that wasn’t in abundant supply, I simply had no time to find something in my budget. I thought the cinq was as basic a level of motoring I would sink too before my motoring career would rise like a phoenix from the ashes to greater heights, I was wrong, enter the basic spec Skoda Felica Combi:
    (not the actual car, but similar spec/color)
    Combi apparently being the Czech/German for “we’ve taken a reasonably neat looking Golf MK1 proportioned hatchback and bastardised it by welding a few more inches onto the back to make a “wagon” . Now the hooniverse US contingent is probably getting all excited by the idea of a compact, european, manual wagon, forbidden fruit and all that. Don’t be fooled, you are missing nothing.
    Where the cinq exuded a sort of carefree existential charm, living la dolce vita by embracing simplicity, All breezy happy go lucky I’ve got just the essentials and everthing is still great sort of vibe, the Felicia feels like the misery of being under the jackboot of communism too long and having to make do with a little less than you need, except this particular example wasn’t even that nice for reasons that will become clear later.
    Where the cinq doesn’t have a lot of grip, it at least telegraphs exactly what is happening and is fun to punt around, any loss of grip never results in a change of underpants moment. This particular skoda on the other hand, has a lethal combo of low grip skinny tyres, no ABS, and steering that is at once, both a little on the heavy side yet lacking in feel. I was not unfamiliar with the poor handling characteristics of these cars having written off a hatchback version of one as a learner driver, at speed, on a section of road I did not realize was flooded at 3AM. In fairness, the car was only one part of the equation of that incident. You also have to ask yourself why a youth who hadn’t passed their test was allowed to drive by themselves, at 3AM on a rainy night, and the answer is “because Ireland”. This was at one time perfectly legal, the police picked me up from the side of the road, and despite the fact I’d litterally wrapped the car around a concrete pillar at considerable speed leaving the front wheels at a jaunty 180 degrees to each other, didn’t even ask questions, or breathalyze me (I hadn’t been drinking, I may have been young and dumb, but not that dumb). Just brought me home and let me out of the back of the car with a cheery “safe home now”. Amazingly, I was completely unhurt, despite the speed and severity of damage to the car. Funnily enough, over the years, nearly everyone I’ve known who’s had one has admitted to having some sort of “off” in them, but no-ones ever been hurt. They are an oddly dangerous yet safe car. I wear it as a weird badge of pride that I’m the only one who has managed to have an oversteer accident in one rather than the usual plough on understeer incident as the driver finds they have run out of both tyre grip and talent, and subsequently, freshness in the undergarment department.
    Anyway, back to the Misery Combi-meal..
    Where the cinqs 799cc zings and spins, the Skodas 1.3 feels like it came out of a 1940s tractor before people started using diesels. It’s an engine designed to endure hardship and it would probably go on forever despite the most willful abuse and neglect. That’s not hypothetical, it actually had had the worst abuse and neglect, predictably, one aspect of this was it had already been involved in a front end incident and did not look pretty. Despite this, the car had a roadworthyness cert and was technically road legal. The front end impact had impacted the cooling system, so that needed to be topped up on occasion, not leaking dramatically or anything but it mean the heater didn’t really work very effectively and took ages to heat up, sometimes not at all, on the days when it was really cold and you really needed it.
    Eventually I could take no more of being cold, or of the bum clenching fear of coming round a blind corner at low speed and needing to brake hard in the wet and bought another beater car which I came to hate even more, an Opel Astra G 1.4 which was a more comfortable, modern, safer car, but the loathing crept in over time, it’s the little things that get to you, where you slowly begin to despise the box ticking mediocrity of its designers who didn’t even have the excuse of having to build a functional car on budget that would’t keep GM in tea and biscuits for the week but that’s another story.
    Someone actually paid me real money to take the Skoda away, and not to a scrapyard either. The buyer put a little work in and subsequently flipped it to another lunatic who actually voluntarily wanted to own one, and paid even more genuine real eurodollars for it.
    It’s probably still going..

    1. texpat Avatar

      This sounds remarkably similar to my first car, a Volvo 345, a gift from my mother, which is the only car I ran off the road multiple times, varying between understeer and oversteer. Damn that thing though, I never hit anything that left a mark on the car, and it generally trundled off quite happily after these offroad excursions.
      Similarly to your Felicia, you never knew it was going to let go until it already had. Additionally, I was poor, and tires always bald.
      It would also tend to stall on downshifts when cold, forcing me to heel and toe when slowing down and downshifting, under threat of it stalling and locking the rear wheels. The first time this happened, it provoked a lurid slide from some wet leaves down a steep hill which got my heart up a bit. Luckily I recovered the slide and kept it on the road.
      Also, it had pretty bad reliability, starting on my first trip, with a failed alternator, then various electrical issues, coil, though never needed to be towed somehow.
      It was a hatchback, and would happily fit a Fender 4×10 bass cab and head which was pretty useful
      Eventually rust got it, but even after sitting in my dad’s driveway for a year, it started up fine from a jump, and the wreckers gave me 100 GBP for it.
      Other notes. I drove it from England to Scotland multiple times, including passing through Lockerbie just a few minutes before Pan Am 103 crashed there. My dad had actually been on the exact plane a few weeks before, when it had had a goose go in an engine, necessitating a full weight emergency landing back in NY.
      Not sure what happened to my driving. Just traded my 13 WRX in, having only skidded it once in 60k miles, and that on an autocross course. I must not be trying hard enough.

      1. Vairship Avatar

        The 34x drives best with a maximum of 2 wheels on the tarmac…

  22. ConstantReader Avatar

    No, but I bought a 1990 740 16 valve from my girl friend’s son for $150 and sold it a year later for $1,500. I had to put tires on it and a headliner in it.