Dear Ethicist…

I just sent this question off to The Ethicist over at the New York Times:

Dear Ethicist,

I took my beloved ’91 Plymouth Laser to the mechanic a few weeks ago for an oil light check, and got a nasty surprise. It seems the engine’s head oil gasket had blown, ruining the seals and subsequently the engine itself. After grieving the sudden death of my car, I sold it to a mechanic at the shop (whom I’ll call Larry) for $100. It was more than I could’ve gotten from a junkyard.

Two weeks later, Larry called me up and said his boss had told him to either fix the car or move it off the parking lot. And since he couldn’t afford to fix the car, he had donated it in my name to the Salvation Army and sent me the tax forms so I could claim a deduction of its Blue Book value next year.

Yesterday, I took my new car to that same mechanic and gave Larry $50 for going through the trouble. He was happy to receive the money, but I got the sense he had expected a full $100 refund.

I have two questions: First, would refunding the full $100 be the ethical course of action? I’m of the opinion I didn’t -have- to give him anything, since it’s not my fault he had an impatient boss.

And second, is it unethical to me to claim a deduction for the car’s Blue Book value (which, by the way, is $1K more than -I- paid for the car), if it’s substantially more than what the car would fetch “on the street?”


Of course, he ain’t gonna change my mind anyway. But maybe some folks on here can help.

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2 Responses to Dear Ethicist…

  1. John McC says:

    Ethics? Why not go for the fair market value? It would help recoup some of the cost of the replacement vehicle.

  2. the roomate upstairs says:

    It was nice of him to donate it to the Salvation Army in your name, because if he had the title he could have donated it in his. He should have just removed the freaking car, but since he choose to donate it, you don’t really owe him anything more then thanks. On the other hand, if you’re going to make money on it anyway, maybe a full refund is in order for him. And claim it on your taxes – how where you to know what shape he donated it in? =)

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