Author Topic: Should I accept this free car?  (Read 1057 times)

shelivesthedream

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Should I accept this free car?
« on: November 10, 2017, 08:04:35 AM »
My 90-year-old grandmother has been talking about giving up driving for some years and her licence expires next year so I think this time she is really going to do it. She wants to know if I would like her car. It is a 2004 automatic BMW with 27,000 miles on it. As they say, one careful lady owner - I am in no doubt that it is well-maintained.

We currently live in London and don't own a car. We wouldn't drive it regularly (my husband walks to work and I am winding down on work at present). I passed my test eighteen months ago and haven't driven since then, but we have talked several times about hiring a car to go on holiday. My husband doesn't drive but I will refuse to drive him around on a regular basis. We are also going to have a baby in April.

So we certainly don't need a car, but do we want one? I imagine we would use it to drive on holiday (in England, either to a rented cottage or to visit friends) a few times a year, to take day trips or overnight trips (in England) a few times a year, and to make it easier to buy large things like second hand furniture. We currently pay or call in favours for such times, and it would be nice to return some of those favours. It would be convenient and pleasant for those times, and would surely make travelling with a baby easier (one could fit a travel cot in a car in the way that one couldn't easily take it on the train), but I don't know if insuring it and maintaining it would be worth it. I don't really know what other ownership responsibilities to expect of a car. We are almost certain to live somewhere where we will want to own a car at some point in the next decade, but there's no reason to take this one just on the off chance.

How should I decide? I have several months at least to think it over, but never having owned a car before I don't really know what it would be like - either positively or negatively.

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Re: Should I accept this free car?
« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2017, 08:17:51 AM »
How much would it cost to register? (Or whatever the UK equivalent is). Would you be paying your grandmother for it, or getting it as a gift? If you decide it doesn't work for you or get much use, could you sell it? Would she be bothered by that? Do you have a place to store it?

Personally, if I had a spot to keep it and registration wasn't a lot, and could sell it later, I would buy it. But I'm also comfortable with cars- remember you need to maintain a car you drive (oil changes, driving it enough the gas doesn't separate, that sort of thing).
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frugaliknowit

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Re: Should I accept this free car?
« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2017, 08:39:49 AM »
I recently went through the same decision triage, except in my case it was my 92 year old mother.

It was a 2001 Mercury Grand Marquis with 22,000 miles on it.  She had banged it up a bit (when she decided to turn in the keys), so it would have needed maybe $1,000 in body repair, otherwise mint.  Like you, I wouldn't use it much.

Decision:  No thanks.  In an urban environment where I can bike/uber/use transit, even "for free", it would be more of a liability than anything.  My mom donated it to Make A Wish Foundation.

It sounds like the same for you guys.  Just rent when you need to.  Tell Granny something like,  "I appreciate it Granny, but we will prosper more without a car..." and maybe offer to help her sell it or donate it.

BiochemicalDJ

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Re: Should I accept this free car?
« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2017, 08:46:07 AM »
I can only speak to my own experience. I was also gifted a car from my grandmother when she gave up her license.

The most expensive parts of owning a car for me are insurance and maintenance.

My car was a 1999 Chevrolet Metro. To put that into perspective, it has easily 1/10 the electronics your bimmer would have, and also 1/4 the powered systems under the hood. It only had 88,000 kms. Simpler, cheaper.

The problem is, cars age through both time and kilometres- some items wear out chemically speaking (mostly rubber, but some lubricants, etc.)

If you get her to send you the VIN (vehicle identification number), you can start doing some research online- If you check out your public library, they may have access to a maintenance manual database you could use to get ideas of costs for the maintenance schedule. For example, mine lists the jobs that would need to be done and the cost in person-hours at local mechanic rates ($120/hr CAD in my area.)

To replace all the parts that had degraded by virtue of time, I spent a grand total of $2800 CAD. Essentially, some rubber hoses, easily replacable spark plug wires, spark plugs, 2 belts, a water pump, a gasket, every fluid imaginable (coolant, oil, transmission 'fluid' (another oil), filters (air, oil, tran fluid) and brake fluid. All which need to be done on various schedules based on clicks and years. The 'unexpected' expenses were a full brake line replacement, a catalytic converter, and a pair of oxygen sensors- all 100% by the book. The upside is that properly replacing all the fluids on time/oiling what needs to be oiled can go a *long* way in making your car last to the proper 350,000 kms+ that I would expect to be the lifespan of a reasonably maintained modern car.

That was doing most of the work myself, by the way- with the mechanic taking $760 in labour for inspection and a brake line repair I was too scared to attempt on my own.

Doing most of the work myself, I have spent 1/2 my entire discretionary budget from last year on this particular car.

Now, that being said, the only maintenance needed now for the next 2 years are oil changes ($23 CAD a pop) and the occasional air filter ($10 CAD). Then it's back to replacing brake fluid, coolant, possibly automatic transmission fluid, etc...

Basically, Get your VIN, call a few local insurance companies, find out what it would cost to register it, see if you get a tax break if she 'gifts' it to you (otherwise you're on the hook for purchase taxes (?) and then run the numbers.

I'll tell you that I drive a tin can compared to your bimmer, and I spent 3x on it what I spent on uber/transit/car rentals for intercity trips combined.

Other (seriously mechanically inclined) mustachians on this forum have been known to keep costs of their car down to about $0.10 USD/km- $0.21 USD/KM.

My car is sitting at about $0.50 CAD/KM at the average, but if I managed to get another 40,000 kms out of it with no further heavy incidents, I should be able to get that number down to ~$0.24CAD/km (gas and insurance only.) Depreciation is a hell of a thing.

... It's also possible to "Ride dirty" and ignore all non-catastrophic issues with the car, only changing oil and brake pads as needed, ignoring the rest of the maintenance schedule until the thing literally falls apart around you or (more likely) just doesn't start one day.

Cheaper in the short run, but likely to slaughter your car by 160,000 kms or require pricey repairs (transmission replacements, radiator replacements, etc.)
« Last Edit: November 10, 2017, 08:56:41 AM by BiochemicalDJ »
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cerat0n1a

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Re: Should I accept this free car?
« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2017, 09:35:34 AM »
How should I decide? I have several months at least to think it over, but never having owned a car before I don't really know what it would be like - either positively or negatively.

Maybe work out how much it's going to cost you? In London, with you having had a license for under 2 years, and not having previously insured a car, you might be looking at a 4-figure sum for insurance in the first year (speculation on my part, maybe it's less)? Easy to find out through online quote. Should be easy to find out how much car tax on it would be - your grandma will have that information, but the car registration plate or engine size would be enough to find out online. It's obviously very low mileage and if your grandmother has had it regularly serviced with approved dealer etc. (expensive for BMW - it's where their profit margin comes from) it will have significant resale value. If she has the service history, there's probably a record of actual annual maintenance costs as part of that (receipts as well as the "stamp in the logbook.") Depending on where you are in London/where you need to get to, you might need to factor in congestion charge, residents parking permits etc etc. too.

Question then is how much use/benefit do you derive? Bit hard to answer until you actually have the baby - my recollection is of being too tired to want to go anywhere much and our social circle becoming parents of babies of similar age from ante-natal class/baby groups in our village. I bought a car shortly after 2nd son was born and it did not leave Cambridgeshire in the first four months I owned it (and we only live a couple of miles from two other counties...) On the other hand, I recall that when we did go anywhere, the amount of "stuff" (travel cot, baby seat and so on) would have made train travel a real pain. I'm "godparent" to the child of friends who live in Brixton and they've had a few interesting moments with babies on public transport in London and lack of a car limits their visit to family & friends and where they holiday in the UK - although money could overcome those problems, I'm sure.

worms

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Re: Should I accept this free car?
« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2017, 06:28:24 AM »
Is it diesel or petrol?  A 13 year-old diesel with very low mileage can be bad news.  Amongst other things, the diesel particulate filter needs a decent hot run every so often to get up to temperature.

I wonder if getting yourself added to her insurance might be a good starting point, so that you are building an insurance history and getting some experience of the car itself before making any decisions.

Google “MOT History” and enter the reg number on the site and you will see all the annual mot checks along with any failures and advisories.  That will give you some indication of the condition of the car.


EDIT:  It’s worth getting the reg number any way and then you can keep a check on its car tax and mot status online (Google Car tax checker) just in case granny forgets.  Now that there is no tax disc, it is easy for people to miss the renewal date and you don’t want granny getting a hefty fine!
« Last Edit: November 12, 2017, 06:34:02 AM by worms »

chasesfish

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Re: Should I accept this free car?
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2017, 06:32:07 AM »
I would pass.
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shelivesthedream

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Re: Should I accept this free car?
« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2017, 09:57:22 AM »
Flippin' 'eck, car insurance is expensive! And I now believe all of the comparison website adverts that claim that they can save you thousands on your car insurance. I got quotes from £1400 to £7500! So not even considering maintenance costs, I think we can say no thank you to this particular gift. Ah well, it was a nice dream while it lasted. :)

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Re: Should I accept this free car?
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2017, 10:06:17 AM »
Ah well at least it makes the decision easier. Before you mentioned the insurance cost I would have said no but offer to help her sell it.

dilinger

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Re: Should I accept this free car?
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2017, 10:34:45 AM »
Help her sell it, buy an e-(cargo?)bike with the proceeds. :)

Linda_Norway

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Re: Should I accept this free car?
« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2017, 10:43:31 AM »
Flippin' 'eck, car insurance is expensive! And I now believe all of the comparison website adverts that claim that they can save you thousands on your car insurance. I got quotes from £1400 to £7500! So not even considering maintenance costs, I think we can say no thank you to this particular gift. Ah well, it was a nice dream while it lasted. :)

Keep in mind that you only need the insurance that pays for other people's damage that you may cause. You don't need all risk insurance. But anyway, your first car insurance is always extremely expensive.

BlueHouse

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Re: Should I accept this free car?
« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2017, 10:46:41 AM »
Yes, you should accept it, if for no other reason than it will make her feel wonderful to give it to you.  She has taken good care of the car and she feels it is exceptionally valuable gift to give you. 

In return, she may need some rides places.  If you are close enough to her that you would help her like this, then accept the car and praise it often and use the car to invite her to join you guys on some outings as well as also taking her to the doctor and some errands. 

If you can't accept responsibility for some of those other things, then find an excuse why you absolutely cannot accept and say so.  This will likely hurt her feelings. 
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Goldielocks

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Re: Should I accept this free car?
« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2017, 11:05:12 AM »
Flippin' 'eck, car insurance is expensive! And I now believe all of the comparison website adverts that claim that they can save you thousands on your car insurance. I got quotes from £1400 to £7500! So not even considering maintenance costs, I think we can say no thank you to this particular gift. Ah well, it was a nice dream while it lasted. :)
Offer to sell it for her, and split the money that comes out.  :-)

shelivesthedream

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Re: Should I accept this free car?
« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2017, 12:07:22 PM »
Guys, guys, let's not put too much weight on this offer. She is making it for the following reasons:
1. It's easier for her than to sell it because I'd do all the paperwork and just drive it away. Though her backup plan is to sell it back to the BMW dealership she bought it from.
2. I am the latest in a list of family members who have been offered this car.
3. She thinks it is essential for women to drive because otherwise they are eternally dependent on their husbands and unable to live their own lives, so she paid for me to take my driving test and has been trying to persuade me to buy a car. This despite the fact that my husband doesn't have a licence so he'd be dependent on me.

This is not about me not appreciating or wanting to help my poor aged granny. She lives five hours away on her own in Devon and has refused all suggestions that she might want to live closer to family so we can support her as she ages. She likes Devon, she's contented, and we all visit in rotation. She has plenty of money and says she's just going to take taxis everywhere instead. She doesn't need me to drive her around. She doesn't need help selling it because she just wants the simplest solution of selling it back to the dealership. Yes, she might get ripped off. She doesn't care.

I'm just going to tell her the truth: living in London, we wouldn't get enough use out of it to make it worth the expense of insuring and maintaining. I don't need to patronise her so I don't hurt her feelings. She's old, not stupid.

(Also forgot to say earlier - I didn't realise you could check MOT history online! That's so handy! Also kinda creepy.)

Linda_Norway

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Re: Should I accept this free car?
« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2017, 12:49:44 PM »
Selling the car back to the dealership is the easiest way to get rid of it. They will give her the low price mentioned in a booklet. After that, no more worries. With a private sale, there is a little more concern about getting a complaint later on.

MrsPete

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Re: Should I accept this free car?
« Reply #15 on: November 13, 2017, 07:14:02 PM »
Several thoughts: 

- You should figure out just how much this gift will cost you; as others have said, insurance for a new driver is outrageous.  Without knowing the total cost of this car, you can't really make a decision. 

- If you accept the car, do you have to bring it to London with you ... or you could you keep it at her house (where I assume she has no-cost parking), and when you want to go on vacation, pick it up?  Eh, that sounded better in my head than it does in print.

- If you accept the car, could you rent it out to friends for their vacations? 

- If you accept the car and decide that you aren't getting your money's worth, you can always get rid of it.  You're not required to keep it -- unless it would hurt your grandmother's feelings? 


Imma

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Re: Should I accept this free car?
« Reply #16 on: November 14, 2017, 06:13:01 AM »

3. She thinks it is essential for women to drive because otherwise they are eternally dependent on their husbands and unable to live their own lives, so she paid for me to take my driving test and has been trying to persuade me to buy a car. This despite the fact that my husband doesn't have a licence so he'd be dependent on me.


My own mother keeps nagging about me not having a license using this same argument, even though my fiance also doesn't drive and we live in the middle of a city, so we can walk / bike or take public transport everywhere. She actually gifted me €2000 to get my license because she gave that amount to my sister for her license (she needed it for work but said she couldn't afford it, and yes, that's what it costs to get a license in my country...) but after talking it through with her she instead allowed me to add that money to the deposit for the home we were about to purchase.
 
The main reason why I don't want a license is because I don't want to waste that money by losing the skill. I see you have a license, but you haven't driven since getting it. While I do think that having a car is not the best option for you right now, please make sure you don't lose your driving skills. You have invested time and money (even though it wasn't your own) learning to drive and it would be a waste to lose it. I know so many people who passed their test when they were 18 and are too scared to drive now they're about 30, because they've only driven on their own a few times in their lives. Many of them end up having to take driving lessons again, sometimes just as many lessons as they needed the first time.

f you visit your grandma often, maybe she wants to keep it so you can drive around when you are there? If she's too far away for you to be able to visit often, look into cheap rental cars or car clubs in your area. I'm sure there are plenty of options in London. Just make sure you maintain your skills often enough to feel comfortable behind the wheel if you ever need it.

shelivesthedream

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Re: Should I accept this free car?
« Reply #17 on: November 14, 2017, 06:36:45 AM »
Eh... I feel a bit meh about this whole "use it or lose it!" thing. My mother keeps banging on about that. I get that it's not like riding a bike and you can't just jump straight back into a car and zoom away, but I don't want to hire a car or take lessons in the interim just for the sake of it. It took me a long time to pass my test (and probably over £2000!) because I was absolutely shit-scared about the driving test. I failed four times in my late teens (due entirely to nerves, not bad driving!) and it took me til 25 to get over the trauma enough to have another go (which I did because I knew it would make my grandmother happy if I did it before she died). However, I found that when I took lessons again after a four to five year gap, I got back in the groove of driving quite quickly. A good 60% of my lessons were about practicing the test, not practicing driving. My instructor said she had never met anyone who wanted to practice literally the entire test from "Good morning, I will be your examiner today" before.

At some point in the future we will probably move somewhere where we will need (or at least semi-need) to own a car and drive it regularly. At that point, my husband will be getting his driving licence (because I will not be driving him around) and I will take some catch-up lessons. But why waste money taking them now when I'll just forget it again and need more catch-up lessons right before I start driving? That point is probably at least five years away. I will never surprise need to drive. I could spend £100/yr on driving lessons for five years or £300 on driving lessons IN five years.

MrsPete

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Re: Should I accept this free car?
« Reply #18 on: November 14, 2017, 06:28:27 PM »
Eh... I feel a bit meh about this whole "use it or lose it!" thing. My mother keeps banging on about that. I get that it's not like riding a bike and you can't just jump straight back into a car and zoom away,
Well, I'd say that a person for whom driving is a firmly entrenched skill could jump in to a car and zoom away -- even if he hadn't driven in ten years.  This isn't exactly the same, but I learned to drive on a straight drive (manual transmission for y'all who aren't Southern), and my first two cars were straight drive ... but I've owned automatic transmission vehicles for about 15 years now.  Regardless, I found myself in a position where I had to borrow a car recently ... I had absolutely no problem bouncing right back into driving with a clutch. 

However, for a person who drove "just enough" to get a license, then didn't practice /didn't reinforce the skill -- yeah, I agree that person would "lose the skill". 

Playing with Fire UK

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Re: Should I accept this free car?
« Reply #19 on: Today at 12:07:50 AM »
When you do restart driving, look into Pass Plus (or the Institute of Advanced Motorists) rather than basic driving lessons. They might be more useful and could help reduce insurance costs.

I agree you don't need a car.

undercover

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Re: Should I accept this free car?
« Reply #20 on: Today at 06:27:12 AM »
Eh... I feel a bit meh about this whole "use it or lose it!" thing. My mother keeps banging on about that. I get that it's not like riding a bike and you can't just jump straight back into a car and zoom away,
Well, I'd say that a person for whom driving is a firmly entrenched skill could jump in to a car and zoom away -- even if he hadn't driven in ten years.  This isn't exactly the same, but I learned to drive on a straight drive (manual transmission for y'all who aren't Southern), and my first two cars were straight drive ... but I've owned automatic transmission vehicles for about 15 years now.  Regardless, I found myself in a position where I had to borrow a car recently ... I had absolutely no problem bouncing right back into driving with a clutch. 

However, for a person who drove "just enough" to get a license, then didn't practice /didn't reinforce the skill -- yeah, I agree that person would "lose the skill".

Haha I'm just now learning that straight drive isn't a geographically universal phrase. And I agree that driving isn't a skill that you lose at all.

Growing up in a rural area, I guess it's hard for me to imagine anyone not having their license by 16. I started driving at 14 and regularly drove my family on vacations at age 15 with a permit. Of course with that type of access to driving I passed the driving portion of the test first try but was an idiot and didn't study for the written portion.

I know this thread is decided, but I definitely would not accept the car unless she just wanted to give you money to pay for your own transportation expenses. If you're already well acclimated to the no-car lifestyle, I see no reason to take it up until you have to. I don't think the largest reason many people don't drive is the expense - it's the hassle. Even if you take your car straight to the dealership it's a hassle, especially when your bike works virtually 100% of the time and your feet even more so.
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shelivesthedream

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Re: Should I accept this free car?
« Reply #21 on: Today at 07:49:05 AM »
Sigh... I'm pregnant and have been having problems with overheating and lightheaded was since basically day one, so cycling will be out for a while. :( My feet still work, but slowly...

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Re: Should I accept this free car?
« Reply #22 on: Today at 08:16:33 AM »
I like your grandmother's attitude about women needing to stay independent - good for her.  Do please reassure her her that if worse comes to worst you've got your options in place (no offence to Mr shelivesthedream intended). 

Keeping a car in London is a nightmare - parking and congestion charging in particular.   And any damage to bodywork on a Beemer would be very expensive to deal with.

You should be able to solve your occasional need for a car with rentals (there are some cheap ones out there) or a car club - https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/car-clubs

My brother got his license as a teenager, didn't drive for 20 years (living in central London).  He took lessons when his circumstances changed, he moved to the suburbs and got a car.  He's a better driver than I am, and I've had a car all that time.  "Use it or lose it" does not apply.

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