exclaimed young Bill Anders as he gazed longingly at the shiny new
automobile. "I just wish I had a car like that!"
"It'd suit me right down to the ground,
too," echoed Ted Anders, Bill's younger brother.
Gus Wilson, veteran auto mechanic and
half owner of the Model Garage, looked at them critically.
"You young scalawags'll never get a car
like this just by wishing," he grumbled as he lowered the hood and snapped
the catches. "Instead of hanging around here under my feet all the
time, why don't you earn some money so you can buy one?"
"I do earn money," young Bill indignantly
protested. "I've got enough saved up already to pay my way through
college next year."
At that moment the postman poked his head
in the door and handed several letters to Gus.
"You might as well take this and save me
stopping at your house," he said, thrusting a letter into Bill Anders' hand.
Joe Clark, Gus's partner, stepped out of
his little office to get the mail just in time to hear Bill let out an
"Hurray!" he shouted jiggling the letter
under Gus's nose. "I've won the scholarship! Now dad'll let me
use that money to buy a car! What kind of a car shall I get, Gus?"
"Well," Gus grinningly observed, "if
you're like the rest of these collegiate birds I see wound here, you'll
collect a rattling heap of tin."
"Now, for," said Bill firmly. "I
want a real car and then I want to keep it in tip-top conditions. Do
you think I'd do better to buy a good secondhand car instead of a new one?"
Gus threw up his hands. "Solomon
himself couldn't give the right answer to that one," he said. "It
depends on a whole lot of things. How much money have you? What
type of car do you want? What do you expect out of a car? How
much do you expect to use it? Even with all those questions answered
there's still plenty of room for argument. About all I can do is to
line up some of the things you'll have to figure on and let you decide for
"Fair enough," said Bill. "Just
tell me the arguments both ways. That'll give me something to go on."
"To begin with," said Gus, "the main
difference between buying a new car and a secondhand bus is that the new one
is pretty much of a sure thing while the secondhand outfit is, most times,
just a gamble.
"When you buy a new car there is always
the chance that some part may prove defective, but you can be dead sure that
there aren't any worn parts. If you take the trouble to cover at least
a couple of thousand miles before the guarantee runs out, you're almost
certain to smoke out anything really defective so you can get it replaced
"Another thing about a new car is the
tires. You start out with new rubber on every wheel, and in the
ordinary course of events you needn't expect any tire trouble at all for a
couple of years, except maybe a couple of punctures.
"The rubber on a secondhand car may be
pretty rotten without looking so awful bad. I've seen lots of
secondhand cars need new shoes all around before the year was out.
"The same thing applies to batteries.
They're like tires - only good for so long anyhow. A battery that'll
start the secondhand car in fine style when you get a demonstration may go
all to pieces in six months. Sometimes a new car battery does that
too, but not if you take care of it."
"Why couldn't you take care of the
secondhand car battery the same way and get the same results?" Bill
"Because," Gus explained, "taking care of
a battery isn't going to put back the material that's fallen off the plates
or patch up the holes in the separators that are going to cause short
circuits. Babying along a bum battery after it starts to go bad is a
waste of time.
"That's two items," Gus continued, "and
there's a lot more. You can't tell how much carbon there is in the
cylinders or even how many miles it'll be before the valves will need
regrinding just by lifting the hood and looking at the motor. How long
will it be before the starter motor itself is going to need attention?
Or the generator? You can't tell from the outside. That's where
the gamble comes in. Maybe not one of these parts'll give you a bit of
trouble for years. Then again they may all go on the blink the first
month and that's just your hard luck.
"There's another thing," he went on.
"When you buy a secondhand car, it's already out of date. Suppose it's
three years old when you get it. Look around and see how the cars that
are five years old look to you today. Kind of ancient, don't they?
Your three-year-old car is going to look just as ancient to you and
everybody else in only two years.
"Don't get the idea that a secondhand car
is always a lemon," Gus cautioned. "It may be a much better buy than a
new car. When a man buys a new car he pays the factory price plus the freight charge and also a
'service' charge, so what he pays is a lot more than the advertised price.
Then if he drives it for a couple of months and tries to sell it, he has to
take a big loss even if the car looks just like new and is in mechanically
perfect condition. It may be even better than new if he's broken it in
real careful. If he keeps it over a year and then tries to sell it, he
has to take two years' depreciation instead of one.
"Maybe he has kept it in fine shape and
only driven it three or four thousand miles. Figured on a dollars per
mile basis, the fellow that buys that car is getting a real bargain.
It's only a tenth worn out any way you figure it, and he gets it for half or
maybe a third of what it cost."
"Sure sounds like a bargain the way you
put it," said Bill. "But why does the fellow that bought the car
first place sell it so cheap?"
"That's just human nature again," Gus
maintained. "He's like the woman who throws away a perfectly good pair
of shoes or a dress and buys a new dress or shoes just because the ones she
had weren't exactly like what every other woman happened to be wearing that
particular month. Keeping up with the styles is fine, son, if you can
"Then," said Bill, "you think I'd be
taking less chance on buying a new car but I might get a much better bargain
in a secondhand one?"
"That's about the way it sizes up," Gus
grinned. "Like a lot of other propositions it al depends on how you
look at it!"