Shayne on You: Keep your eyes on the road when buying from bro

Dear Maggie,

Iíve been wanting to buy a car for a long time, and my brother has offered to sell me his. My problem is that itís an older car, and while itís running fine now, who knows what might lie ahead? The price is certainly right. Heís giving it to me for less than the book value. (I checked.) But my father says I should never do business with family members Ė that it isnít worth the stress it can put on my relationship with my brother Ė which is a good one.

Whatís your advice?


Temporarily Car-less

Dear TC,

I think your fatherís advice is very sound, but as with all things, thereís never one surefire, absolute answer. It sounds as if you want to buy the car, despite your dadís warnings. The way to do that is to make sure everything is laid out up front.

If you get the car and then something major goes wrong with it, that could lead to trouble. You might feel your brother ought to refund some of the money or pay for the repairs, and he will, no doubt, disagree. If you buy the car and then turn around and sell it to someone else for more than you paid, your brother will feel his generosity was abused.

So lay all your cards on the table. Have a reputable mechanic (who is not a relative or friend to either of you) give the car the once-over. If he gives it the stamp of approval, then you need to agree not to hold anything that might go wrong later, against your brother. After all, it was clearly something no one could predict. Agree to the price, and make sure you can pay it all up front, even if you have to get a bank loan to pay him in full. This will avoid problems with missing payments to your brother later on, and causing hard feelings. Get clear on his feelings about how long you should keep the car before he would feel OK about you reselling it or trading it in.

I believe this can be done, if itís done with foresight and care, and if you and your brother both remember that your relationship with each other is far more important than any car or any amount of money could ever be.

Good luck!


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