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Don’t Cheat Children. . .Especially If They Don’t Know It

January 15, 2021

I do car work for friends as well as family. A young man came to me for help with his first car. It wasn’t a great car. It had about 175,000 miles. It had a standard transmission. No working radio. But, still he liked it.

He’d bought it from his foster parents for $500. I’d say he paid about the right price.

After driving it for a while he had a problem. It started as a small problem, but eventually became a big problem. He blew his head gasket and bent a couple of valves. He brought it to me to look at.

I can replace a head gasket. I cannot do anything for bent valves. That has to be done at a machine shop. And while my labor is cheap for friends and families, there’s not much I can do about the prices a machine shop charges.

Well, it’ll be about $250 for a new head gasket. But, the machine shop work is going to be about $500.

You know I only paid $500 for it.

Yeah. Typically the thinking is you look at the cost of the repair vs what you could get if you spent it on a new car. So, for $750 you will have your car running with a rebuilt top end. Or, you can take the $750 and buy another car. Not a great choice, I know.

No, but I think I’ll go ahead and have you fix it.

I felt terrible as you might imagine. I was donating the labor, but it was still a bitter pill for him to swallow. I did the work and at the end the engine ran beautifully. The car still had issues, of course, but the engine was running like a top.

Eventually, my friend decided that he wanted a newer car. So, he went to a local dealer and made an offer on a 2014 with 50,000 miles. A beautiful car that he will probably not need me to fix anything more than an oil change and new brakes. My friend didn’t ask me to go with him. But, his foster dad went with him.

The dealership offered him $250 as a tradein for his old car. Again, I think that was probably the right trade-in value. So far, it was fine. He was going to lose the money he invested in the repair. But, he decided to not tradein his car. I’m not sure, but I think his foster dad suggested it.

If the trade-in value is $250, the private sale value is closer to $500. And any car that runs is worth between $500 and $1000.

So, what happened to the car? My friend sold it. He sold it to his foster parents. These are the same foster parents that originally sold him the car for $500. And the foster parents who knew he’d dropped $750 to fix the car they sold him. (Not long after they sold it to him.)

Great, how much did they give you for it?

The same as the dealership was offering; $250

I didn’t have the heart to tell him. He still thinks fondly of his foster parents. I’m not sure the feelings are reciprocated.

Don’t take advantage of people just because you can.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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