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Joanne Will
Joanne Will

Auto Therapy

Let's refer to the case of Finders v. Keepers Add to ...

Grandpa's old car sat around for years, and the consensus was always that no one in our family wanted it. I finally hauled it to my garage on a flatbed, got it running, and restored it. Now my brother and his wife think their teenage son is entitled to use it. I think it's ridiculous given the work I've done, not to mention the fact that my nephew is spoiled and to my knowledge has never worked to earn anything in his life. How do I keep the car and keep the peace?

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All in the Family

No one wanted that boring old landscape painting great-grandma bought - until some vulture at the estate sale picked it up for peanuts and discovered it was an original Group of Seven.

When it comes to ownership, they say possession is nine-tenths of the law. I say finders, keepers. In this case, you added value to the vehicle. You spent time and money fixing it up. If you're willing to sell, and your brother and his wife want to pay for the repairs you did including labour, perhaps they can purchase the car from you.

Understandably, among the last things the elderly want to relinquish are their driver's licences and automobiles. This explains the abundance of vehicles hiding under tarps in garages and barns across the country. When Grandpa finally retires to his walker and his rocking chair, the '73 Oldsmobile he bought new and drove twice a year is often left to sit in the garage. Most relatives don't want the headache of parking and maintaining a two-door land yacht, yet collectors dream about discovering these kinds of vehicles.

Is Grandpa still alive? If the car was given to you with his blessing and no stipulations, that's certainly his prerogative. Having said this, I wouldn't advocate creating bad blood in the family over a used car. Life is too short for petty conflict. As I've said before - in the end, a vehicle is just four pieces of rubber attached to a chunk of metal. If this car is causing too much disruption in the family, have it appraised. Determine what the fair market value was at the time you took possession, then offer that amount to be divided among the rest of the family and be done with it. Alternatively, if Grandpa is still alive, he could adjust your portion of the estate in his will to appease the others.

This brings us to another issue. Giving a car (or anything of value) to a young person when it hasn't been earned can set a dangerous precedent. The last thing society needs is another member with a sense of entitlement. On the other hand, maybe it's time for you to be the benevolent uncle who provides the inspiration required to send your nephew down the right road. Is there any way you could lend the vehicle to him occasionally in exchange for part-time labour? Do you have some yard work, or painting projects he could assist you with to help earn the use of the vehicle from time to time, or perhaps buy his own? If you both enjoy automobile restoration work, maybe he'd like to take on a new project with you. Spending quality time with a suitable role model might do wonders for his disposition, and be just as rewarding for you.

Are we talking about a Mercedes Gull-Wing here, a vintage Cadillac convertible, or a K-car? The sentimental value attached to Grandpa's car is one thing, and the actual value is another. To truly appreciate the design and engineering of finer automobiles, every motorist should have at least one old beater in their driving history.

Sometimes family relations are so closely connected that things get taken for granted. In this situation, it seems Grandpa's car is being viewed as communal property. You had to haul it to your garage on a flatbed, so it likely had little value to anyone before you restored it. It reminds me of the infamous tale of the Little Red Hen: no one wanted to help, but everyone wanted a piece of the action.

The real cost of car ownership

The sticker price is only the starting point. Do you know what you really pay for your vehicle?

 

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