Arlo Mudgett: The View from Faraway Farm: Long and lasting regret


I've done it several times. How many times did I get the same vehicle back? Twice. The rest of those times a beat-up piece of junk was returned. I had a Cadillac Eldorado that I lent to a family member for several weeks. The car was running great when it left my house. When it came back it was down 3 quarts of oil, it was dirty, there was no gas in the tank, and it felt like it had been used as a stunt vehicle for an episode of the Dukes of Hazzard. It was just hammered.

I let the boyfriend of a family member borrow my 3/4 ton pickup and an enclosed trailer. When it was returned there was a huge dent in the tailgate where the trailer yoke smacked into it when it came loose on the road. I let some folks borrow a car while theirs was in the shop for major collision repair. When I got my car back the clutch was just about fried, but the guy said he knew how to drive a standard.

The fact that I have five or six automobiles and a pickup truck is not lost on some people. Hey, what's mine is theirs, or so they think. I don't offer to lend anyone my vehicles any longer unless one of my children has a real urgent need. That's where I've decided to draw the line. I've become quite weary of having borrowed cars returned in deplorable condition. Knowing what I know about lending cars, you can imagine my incredulous reaction to a cool new millennial targeted online service where people lend their vehicles to perfect strangers. It's true! The TV ad for the service which I will not name, shows young hipster types driving off in a brand new Alfa Romeo in one scene, and a Mercedes Benz in another. This all takes place in San Francisco, which is so picturesque. Ah, the romance of driving some rich city dweller's Mercedes over the Golden Gate to beautiful Marin County. The contented smile on the owner's face as a 20-something drives off in their $75,000 car in a congested city is beyond fantasy.

I once reserved a rental motorcycle in Sausalito, California just across the bay from San Francisco. I had some time to kill so we drove over the Golden Gate to scout out the dealership first. The congestion was intense, and a short ride up the Pacific Coast Highway quickly convinced me that riding an unfamiliar motorcycle in an unfamiliar area with sheer cliffs with no guardrails was not in my best interest. I canceled the rental. A couple of days later we did ride a motorcycle identical to a model I had once owned. We were up in Sonoma County where I was familiar with the rural roads and it was a joy, but that's another story.

Back to the idea of renting your vehicle to a stranger that found you online ... I'm sorry, but that is just nuts. Anyone who willingly rents their car in one of those deals has a very unpleasant surprise in store for them. Other people do not care about your car. Usually, people rent a car while on vacation in an area where they are not familiar with the roads. They are not familiar with your particular car, either. "We have excellent insurance, and the online service covers us, too" you might say. Well, all the insurance in the world won't cover the results of one good thrash to your vehicle, rendering it loose, beaten, rattling and squeaking, unlike anything it had ever experienced with you at the wheel. Why on earth would you voluntarily sign up for that nightmare?

You may not believe it, but one day of enthusiastic mistreatment of a vehicle can really do irreversible damage that will never be covered by insurance. No amount of repair will give you back a good solid car once it has been trashed enough to loosen welds, warp sub-frames and bend steering components.

When I see that TV commercial for the service that allows you to make a little extra money on the side by renting your car to people direct off the internet I have to laugh at the foolishness of the concept. But you and I both know that there will be plenty of takers on the deal, which will result in long and lasting regret.

Arlo Mudgett's Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.



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