I've simplified values for discussion purposes.

I moved from overseas back to the United States where I needed a car. Before buying one, a dear friend had bought a car for his daughter in 2017 that she no longer could use (DUIs, long story). In 2018/2019 asked if I wanted to just use that car. For sure. So I drove it, and made the actual payments each month. Let's say the original car was $15,000, and since I've been driving it, I've paid about $5,000 (inclusive of interest NOT just principle). It is about to be finished for payments and we don't know what to do. It is valued about the amount that I paid but I was also paying high interest rate.

We are friends and are in no way contentious - we're both trying to be too generous rather than picky I put many miles on the car "devaluing it" I paid for a third of the car maybe, but also only used it for about half of its life He wants to say the car is now mine and sell it to me for a dollar; I want it to be his car, but I did pay a lot.

I see it as renting a house. For two years I rented a house now it is his house, he doesn't owe me anything at all. But he doesn't need the car, and it's paid off - do I buy it from him for what it's total value is, or do I subtract some from the KBB value, since I've paid $5,000 into his car? But I was also driving it.

Again, I have to stress that we are both flexible and very friendly about it - it's just the math that we can't figure out. Money isn't putting a real strain on anyone either.

3 Answers 3


That's completely up to you. But as you seem to disagree between each other, I'd say the fairest thing is to agree on a price retroactively: what was the car's value back when you started using it? Let's assume that was about $10,000. In this case, you'll owe him another $5,000.

Or, to be more precise: you bought a car for $10,000 and got two (imaginary) loans from him of (about) $5,000 each. One of them which you paid off now, the other one you still owe.


You say you paid about one third of the loan, but used the car about half of its life? You also say the car is worth about $5,000 now. It's not an exact math, because a car devalues unevenly over time, but I would split the difference. You pay additional $2,500 so you have paid about half of the car. You get a car at half market price, he gets some additional money, everyone is happy.

Of course the are other ways to look at it, for example, you paid one third, so you would have to pay two thirds of the current value to buy the missing "shares".

Or: You try to guesstimate the value of the car when you took control of it, subtract the 5000 and pay up the rest (as if you had bought it then, irrespective of interest).


Some assumptions are in order:

  1. Had you not been driving and paying for the car, the owner of the car would have continued making the payments while leaving the car in the garage for a couple of years.
  2. Had you agreed to "rent" the car from him, you probably would have paid less than the monthly payment which was based on purchasing the car.
  3. You never agreed to purchase the car, until now.

Based on these assumptions, perhaps the fairest way to calculate the value is as follows:

  • Calculate the value of the car today, but based on the amount of miles it had on it before you started driving it. This represents the price it would be worth had you never driven it, and wished to purchase it right now.
  • Subtract the total amount you have paid towards the car.
  • Offer to purchase the car for the difference, or the current value of the car, whichever is lower.

Note the reason for "whichever is lower" is that if the difference is more than the value of the car, you could just walk away, and then the most he could get is its current value.

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