CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

To let sit, or let drive?

I am about to leave the country for a year or more, and am wondering about the risks of letting my car (a 2007 Pontiac Vibe) sit for over a year without being driven. Is this something I should worry about? Would it be better to let my teenage nephew use the car while I am gone, provided he agrees to pay the insurance and maintain the vehicle? Or would the wear and tear he is likely to put on the car be worse than letting it sit in my parents’ driveway for a year?

If you can find an adult to drive the car then go for it. Your teenage nephew may or not abuse the vehicle but why take the chance. NOTE: Teenagers have a lot of friends so even if your nephew treated the car well then the friends might not. I speak from experience.

Teenager + car:

Evaluate the responsibility level of the teenager in question before handing him the keys.

There is nothing wrong with allowing a car to sit idle for a year. You can either cancel the insurance for one year and let it just sit, or keep it insured and request your folks take it out for a spin once a month to keep it limber. Either way you will surely have peace of mind.

Up to a year I’d put a double dose of Stabil in the tank, then fill up the tank, drive it for a few miles, then park it with, if possible, a battery tender hooked up to keep the battery charged.

But you said ‘a year or more’. How uncertain is the time? Might it be two years? If there’s a strong likelyhood of 1 1/2 years or more, then I’d either sell it for find some way that it could be used often enough to go through several tanks of gas during that time.

Um, “Should I allow my teenage nephew to drive my car?” That’s a question with a built in answer. No. Just store it with a battery maintainer. A year is really nothing with the tank topped up and stabilizer in the gas and in a garage hopefully. I’ve got a car that last year I put 10 miles on it. No problem.

I recommend not having anyone drive the car. Having it driven vs not driving it at all, is about even.

The relative (especially a young one, may be fine, but if something happens, even if it was nothing the relative might have avoided, is likely to end up with the blame if something happens. Those kind of things can cause problems for years.

Frankly a year is not all that long for a car. I vote that it be sold or stored.

If you are going to store the car, I suggest canceling the accident insurance but keep the comprehensive (that should cover theft.)

I would remove the battery and store it in a safe place not close to the car (it is difficult to steal a car that does not have a battery.)

It depends on how responsible the newphew is. I have a nephew that is responsible enough at 19 that I would not hesitate to let him drive my car. I also have one that I definitely would not give the keys to. That’s a question only you can answer. But if his parents are around and you trust them, that goes a long way towards making him behave well in your car.

shadowfax, That’ll buff out!

Don’t park it outside in the weather. There is too much out there to attack your car including sunshine, hail, tree branches, bird droppings, pine sap and more. Inside is much better for your car. There is plenty of advice previously posted here on Car Talk regarding a few simple steps you should take to store a car for a year. If you can’t find it, ask again.

Parking the car is a FAR better choice than letting your teenage nephew drive it…Cancel the insurance and registration, put some stabil in the gas and remove the battery…Clean it inside and out and give it a good wax job…Pump the tires up to 45 pounds.

Yeah, park it. My son parked his 2002 Mazda (the subject of another recent thread) for two years while they lived overseas. He put fuel stablizer in it. When he came back I put in a new battery, and it started right off. When he left again for 8 months, we put the battery in the house on a keeper.

The tires did get a bit out of round from sitting there, but they needed to be replaced anyway. And, though he was going to replace tires anyway, he said after a few days, they seemed to smooth out.

Your decision should allow for your ability to buy and sell used cars. We don’t do well, and prefer to suffer hassle keeping one that we like, rather than buy/sell.