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buying a used car from a friend

Updated on September 4, 2010

used car from a friend

Buying a used car from a friend can be tricky. The reverse is also true. A friend is a friend. A car is a machine. Machines are mechanical and they can fail. A car should not be allowed to come between two friends; should not be allowed to break down a relationship.

   This is the third car I am purchasing from a friend. I remember the very first one over twelve years ago as if it was yesterday. I was warned that a used car is not nearly as perfect as a new one. They told me a used car is bound to have something not quite right. It did not have to be the whole engine block, but even a crack in the mirror which you did not notice when buying.

   I was warned that buying a car from a friend or relative could cause tensions. It had to be treated as strict business and nothing less.

   Okay, so, I purchased this car from a friend who told me it was perfect. Everything was working well he told me, the tires, he pointed out, were recently put on and the engine oil was recently changed. The price was agreed and I paid out the said amount and drove  away in my new car.

   Deciding to buy a car from a friend is never easy for me. However, I take a number of factors into consideration: the price tag, the general condition of the vehicle and the condition of our relationship. If these are lining up then its okay to buy.

   The price: The price has to be based on the assumption that this car will have some defects that need fixing up to 50% of the price tag. So, for a car of 2,000usd, it would be my estimate that repair work will cost up to 1,000usd. So, in fact I am paying 3,000usd for this car with the asking price 2,000. If it is not worthy that much then it is not for me to buy.

   The most important thing on a car is the engine and the body works. Everything else can be fixed or replaced. But to think that you can buy a car and have to replace the engine within the next six months is madness. The value of a car is really in the condition of the engine. My brother who is a good mechanic emphasizes this when he tells me, "when buying a used car you are in fact buying the engine and the body."

  The other thing I consider important is the body. If the car is already falling apart then what is the point of buying it unless you want it for spares. One wants to buy a car that can serve for at least three years without falling apart. A body falls apart when the doors are getting off the hinges, or the paint is peeling off.

   If a car is a runner, it is important to know if it can do work on arrival or if it will require attention before it can be put to work. every time I have purchased a car from a friend I wanted it to come running. I bought because I wanted a working machine.

   The relationship: It is important to gauge whether or not the relationship with the seller "friend" is good or bad. If it is not good then it is safer to let someone else buy even if all other factors are good. The reason is that things can really go wrong with machines and the story can turn on its head if relationships are sour. Any mishaps can be blamed on the bad relationship.

   A good relationship on the other hand can buffer any mishaps. \Friends can laugh at incidents involving the vehicle. Thus if the relationship was not good it might help to start by working on improving the relationship before purchasing that car from an old friend.

   The hand-over ceremony: Keep the hand-over ceremony simple and to the point. A signed document goes a long way. It should state that the car is sold "As is" and that if there is anything in the machine that does not perform to the expectations of the buyer the seller will not be held responsible. This is a good reminder to the parties.

   Well, the first vehicle that I purchased had major problems with the gear system. Something was missing from the gear mechanism which made it really difficult to shift the gear stick from second into third gear. The seller did not tell me this. In part I convinced myself, it was because he was used to it. The other thing I discovered was that the master brake cylinder was leaking brake fluid.

   All in all, when I calculated the repairs they amounted to less then the 50% threshold that I always give allowance for buying from a friend. I paid for those and the car was in perfect working condition for many years until I sold it to someone else.

   This time I purchased a car and the cost of repairs has been estimated at equal to or more than the price I paid to buy the car! Well, well, what to do now?

   But wait, I was very clever too. When I purchased this car I estimated that it would cost me the same amount on repairs as I paid to purchase it. I saw through many of the defects pointed out later. I am much more experienced with cars having owned more than ten different cars over the years. Each of those left its mark on me.

   The car I just bought should have cost me more but the friend called for the minimum amount. I agreed with him although I could have lowered the tag. I paid the amount and assured him I was owning any and every problem that would crop up.

   There are major suspension problems with the car and the tires are four different types. I was told this is not acceptable. The car has to to have all four tires of the same type working together.

   My friend will remain my friend because I factored in every possibility for the car to fail. Our relationship is covered and I will not even tell him what I found. I will take him for a ride and we shall be fine. I have to admit I was feeling a sense of frustration when I discovered those defects and the issue of the tires needing to be replaced.


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