Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Buying a Friend's Car Could Backfire

DEAR HARRIETTE: I'm trying to purchase a new car. Everyone is pressuring me to buy a vehicle from a family friend, but I'd like to buy from a reputable dealer. I'd hate to buy from the family friend and then have the vehicle not work, and I really want to drive off the lot in a new vehicle.

Everyone keeps saying I'm not being realistic, and that I just need something to get me from point A to B. No one is being supportive of my decision. True, I'd save money buying from the family friend, but I don't want any mishaps. What do you think? -- Car Shopper, Laurelton, Md.

DEAR CAR SHOPPER: I say, go with your gut. While many people have successfully purchased cars and other items from family friends, you are right to be wary. If you want to buy a car from a dealer and you can afford it, that plan gives you professional assurances should anything go wrong with the vehicle.

If you ever do buy a car or other expensive item from someone besides an established business, be crystal clear about the terms. In the case of a car, you should have it inspected and receive some kind of formal assurance that you will be reimbursed if it is a lemon. Or perhaps you agree to buy it at such a low price that you accept the risk. Some states have "lemon laws" that protect people who unknowingly buy defective used cars.

DEAR HARRIETTE: A close associate from work was fired recently, and I knew about it beforehand. She had been written up for her work performance and put on probation in December. After that, her work ethic was getting better, and she even became social chair for our fundraiser committee.

Should I tell her I knew what was going to happen? -- Unsure, Syracuse, N.Y.

DEAR UNSURE: Leave well enough alone. All you would be doing is stirring the pot. You have no control over this woman's fate, so telling her likely would upset her without benefit. Since she was previously written up and put on probation, she knew her work was being evaluated. Though her performance improved, she must not have done well enough for the company to choose to keep her.

Rather than rubbing her nose in the reality of her firing, do your best to help boost her confidence. Provided that you would naturally continue to talk to her after she has left the company, remind her of what she had been doing well and of her overall skills. Encourage her to look for a new job that will match her skill set.