By G.R. Whale
I once swapped a co-worker's pickup for my sports car to move some stuff for a day, retrieved my car in the dark and ran home for a shower. The gal who owned the truck had only taken my car to the gym but since neither of us checked the vehicles when I returned her truck, no one knew stuff had fallen out of her gym bag until my date climbed in and asked who the slinky bra on the floor belonged to.
No good deed goes unpunished, right?
So my No. 1 rule is a walk-around as soon as I swap out of a borrowed ride. Look inside, outside, underneath and under the hood while you can ask questions and the loanee can answer or forever hold your peace (or note the mileage at the time of return so things discovered later are properly attributed).
I return vehicles in equal or better shape than I got them. That could be more fuel than it had, a minor service, a new piece of equipment like a trailer plug or a new tow ball. I also return them cleaner, even if it's just a shaken-out floormat or swept bed in a recently washed truck. I have one of those inexpensive headlight plastic refinishing kits; using that makes many vehicle owners think I installed new lights. They remember that every time they drive at night. However, use caution when cleaning a vehicle. Some owners may prefer you not wash their truck, especially at an automated place.
Fuel is pricey but still a deal compared to rental fees (or fueling charges at a rental place). At absolute minimum the tank(s) (diesel exhaust fluid included) should have as much fuel on board as when you borrowed the truck and preferably more. If you drove through lots of bugs or weather, top off the windshield wiper fluid too.
Clean it up. If you got it fresh from the car wash that's how you bring it back. Wipe down the dash, door handles, steering wheel and gearshift with disinfectant wipes. Give the interior a spritz with an air freshener; I don't want to know where you stopped for meals in my truck.
If you used the truck to haul material or parked it under a messy tree, sweep out the bed. If the owner lent you tie-downs with the truck, stow them neatly and untangled, and replace any you frayed or broke.
Be sure to bring the pickup back on time. If you are unavoidably detained, call and explain why you're running late — and make sure it's a legitimate reason. I've loaned vehicles with written agreements and only made one phone call if it wasn't returned on time; if I didn't hear back in a few hours with a really good reason, I reported it stolen. I did this more than once.
Whatever you do, remember the truck owner did you a favor. If you add in a car wash and filling a half-empty tank, the cash outlay might be more than a rent-a-wreck pickup for a day. But by borrowing a pickup, you probably got a nicer, less abused, more reliable truck. There also was a lot less paperwork, you didn't need a credit card and you didn't need to plan your trip around a rental business' hours.
You never know when you might need to borrow your friend's pickup again, so do it right the first time.