Roommate Rift: Borrowing a Car

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Everyone loves to have a friend with a car, but it's not always great to be the friend with the car. Sharing or letting roommates borrow a car can lead  to all sorts of trouble. Dents, dings, tickets, extra miles and an empty gas tank. One quick trip isn't a big deal, but after a few these things add up and resentments can build if you don't handle the situation correctly.

If You Are Borrowing a Car:
  • Always ask permission. Don't just assume it's okay because it was before. Maybe the owner needs the car this afternoon. Always ask and be clear about the time frame you will be using the car and then stick to it!
  • Fill the tank or leave gas money. Even if the car owner doesn't ask or insist on this it's a good idea. Gas is a big expense, don't leave that on the shoulders of someone who is doing you a favor. If you are leaving cash, make sure it really covers what you took. Most people tend to round-down or underestimate what they ought to contribute to any shared expense. Don't be that guy. If you want to borrow the car again be classy and generous. 
  • Follow the general rule: you break it, you buy it. If you get a scratch, ding, parking ticket or any other kind of damage or expense make it right and pay up. Don't try to hide a scratch or dent. Maybe the car is rundown anyways and the owner won't want to repair it, but you should always offer the funds to put it back in the condition it was given to you.
If Others Are Borrowing Your Car:
  • Set clear ground rules. Make your expectations clear. Try thinking of the car as a your baby (if you don't already), you want to set clear expectations and rules for the babysitter.
  • Be clear. It feels good to be generous and you don't really need to collect gas money from your friends quick trip to the grocery store, but those quick trips add up. Don't say that getting gas money isn't a big deal when it really is. If your friends take a lot of short trips, try making a rule that they will even up once a month. Or "charge" a certain among per mile using your cars average miles per gallon. 
  • Don't be a push over. If you aren't okay with people using your car just say so. As long as you are clear from the beginning a good friend won't be hurt by this. Stick to what you are comfortable with, no long trips, no strangers in the car, no food or drinks in the car, whatever. Your car, your rules.

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