"Got anybody here that can fix brakes
so they'll hold?" called the driver of a travel-worn coupe as the car rolled
to a squeaking stop in front of the Model Garage.
Gus Wilson, veteran auto
mechanic and part owner of the business, pulled his head out from under the
hood of a shiny new sedan he was tuning up.
"Pull over beside this bus, mister,
and I'll take a look in just a second," he directed, as he fished a
thickness gauge out of his tool kit and turned again to his job.
Jim Russell parked his old car
on the spot indicated, lighted a cigarette, looked at his dash clock, got
out, and fidgeted around for a minute or two.
"Any chance to get some quick
action?" he fumed, as Gus continued to work on the new car, "I'm likely to
lose an order if I don't get down to Jones's hardware store right away."
"Stay right here and you'll get
the order," Gus smiled. "This is Jones's car and he'll be back any
Gus was working on the brakes
when Jones showed up a quarter of an hour later.
"That's a swell-looking boat
you've bought Larry," commented the salesman a bit enviously after the
greetings were over. "Guess I can't expect much of an order this trip
considering all the dough you've sunk in that bus!" "Sunk is right!"
Larry Jones grunted disgustedly. "When I think of all the jack it cost
me just to keep peace in the family, it gives me a headache."
"That's the way I feel about
it," Russell agreed. "So long as the old bus will keep running, darned
if I'll fork over for a new one. Just throwing money away, seems to
me. Not that I wouldn't like to have a new car, though, if I could
"How do you know you can't?"
Gus interrupted, as he jiggled the jack squarely under the rear-end housing.
"Joe has some figures that may change your mind. Joe!" he called.
"Bring out those car-expense estimates you were showing me the other day."
"Joe Clark, Gus's partner in
the operation of the Model Garage, stepped out of his little office with a
bunch of papers in his hand and the inevitable pencil tucked behind his ear.
"Jones, here, thinks he's
wasted money buying a new car," Gus explained, "and Mr. - Russell is the
name? - says he can't afford one. How would you figure it, Joe?"
"That's pretty near the long
and the short of it," Joe grinned pointing first at Russell's mud-stained
bus, and then at Jones's shiny new car.
"I know Jones drives about
7,000 miles a year and I suppose you knock off 25,000 or more, Mr. Russell?"
"At least that much," Russell
"Some years much more. So
what's the use of putting a new car up against that kind of a job?"
"Well," Joe began, "there's a
lot of ways of looking at this automobile proposition. But there's one
thing certain. Every car owner wants his car to look good, give him
the minimum amount of trouble, and cost as little as possible for every mile
"I guess there's no argument
about that," Russell conceded with a grin.
"All right then," Joe
continued. "The whole point of this business is that the trade-in
price of a car is based almost entirely on the yearly model. Mileage
has very little to do with it. You have one make of low-priced car,
Jones has another. If you buy a car in that class, the yearly cost for
depreciation is easy to figure. It is the delivered price less what
you can get on a trade-in, divided by the number of years you have owned the
Take one of these models that costs
you, delivered say $750. Suppose you drive it seven years. At
the end of that time it would be worth about fifty dollars, so your car
would have cost you $100 a year for depreciation alone.
"You'd have run up a mileage not far
from 200,000," Joe went on. "You'd have worn out from ten to fifteen
complete sets of tires at about thirty-six dollars a set, depending on the
way you drive and handle the brakes. You'd have had to buy at least
four and maybe six, new storage batteries. The motor would have needed
two to three complete overhauls, besides at least the same number of
ring-renewal jobs. You'd have had the steering gear overhauled about
three times and the rear end probably at least once, not counting, say,
about three universal-joint renewals, and chances are you'd have had to buy
one now radiator."
"Sounds like a lot of repair
work when you list it that way," Russell put in looking ruefully at his car,
"but, judging from my own experience, it seems about right."
"We mustn't forget the brakes,"
said Joe, "they're more important than anything else on the car - except the
steering gear - from the safety standpoint. It's hard to estimate how
long brakes will last, so much depends on the driver. On the average,
a set of linings will last about 15,000 miles. That means you'd have
to have about thirteen relining jobs done in 200,000 miles and along toward
the end there'd be extra charges. The brake drums would have to be
refaced and so on. A fair guess on the total cost of that much work on
a car wouldn't be far from $600."
"That's a lot of jack,
isn't it?" Russell admitted. "Still, it's spread over seven years and
a new car costs $750 all at once, or within a year or so if you take it on
"Wait a minute," said Joe.
"There's a whole raft of items I haven't included. There'd be
generator trouble, wear and break-down in the ignition and lighting systems,
clutch and pilot-bearing trouble, starter-motor repairs, leaky radiator
connections, water pump renewals, carburetor and transmission troubles, and
nobody knows how many little things that almost never happen to a car the
first year or two. It's a pretty safe bet that they'd run the total up
at least another $100."
"But what's a hundred bucks
spread over seven years?" Russell countered.
"Just a hundred bucks," Joe smiled.
"Which brings the total for the seven
years to at least $700. And that estimate is on the low side.
"Now here's how it works out.
It costs you $100 a year for upkeep or $200, more or less, will get you a
brand-new car of the same make and model. So, for just what you are
actually paying now, plus, at most, the price of a set of tires, one
brake-relining jobs, and the few minor repairs that a new car may need for
the first 25,000 miles, you can have a new car every year. Isn't it
"By George!" Russell exclaimed.
"I never looked at it that way. So I can have a new car all the time
for something less than fifty berries a year more than I'm paying out now?
I'll say it's worth it, even if only
to get rid of worrying about what's going to break down next on the old bus.
And a nice-looking car is a business asset, the same as a new suit of
clothes. I'll be jiggered if I don't trade in the old crock as soon as
I get home from this trip and after that I'll try your plan."
"Humph!" grunted Jones, who had
been listening to Joe with interest. "Trading every year like that may
be all right for Jim. He covers a lot of miles every year. But
it certainly doesn't apply to me, Joe. It takes me three years or more
to drive as many miles as Jim does in one year. I'd lose my shirt
trading every year."
"It all depends on how you look
at it," Joe argued, "and how much value you set on having a new car.
If you kept it seven years, same as you did the last one, it would cost you
just about as much as it would Russell for depreciation--$200 a year - but,
of course you'd have a lot less expense to keep it running. At 7,000
miles a year you'd only cover 10,000 miles in that time. You could
probably get by with one ring job, two new sets of tires - tires go bad with
age as well as with wear - and a couple of brake-relining jobs.
Batteries go bad from age, mostly so you'd have nearly as many batteries to
buy as Russell. Altogether, it probably would cost you between $150
and $200 - say, $175, or twenty five dollars a year for upkeep. This,
added to the annual cost of depreciation, would give a yearly total of $125
for maintaining the old bus."
"I'd be a dumb-bell to trade
every year on that basis," Jones maintained.
"It would cost you seventy-five
dollars a year more than what you paid annually on your last car, or only
about twenty-five to thirty dollars more than it will cost Russell," Joe
said, glancing at his figures.
"But the answer in your case,"
he went on, "is to trade every two years. A two-year-old car of your
make will trade in today at within $230 to $300 of the delivered price of a
new car. You drive carefully. You keep your car in fine shape,
and your yearly mileage is small, so you'd probably get the top trade-in
price, which would make the depreciation work out to not much over $125 a
year. So, if you trade in every two years, it will cost you just what
you would spend on the seven-year basis, plus the upkeep for two years.
You might have to get a new battery before the end of the second year, and
you might have hard luck with one tire, but the brakes would last that long.
So chances are it would only cost you around ten dollars more a year than
you now pay, and you get a brand new car every two years. Isn't it
"It would be worth twice that
not to have to go through all the domestic arguments I've had on the new car
subject," Jones agreed. "But you haven't said anything about gasoline
and oil expense. Shouldn't you take them into account? To hear
some fellows talk, you'd think the cost of keeping a car is mostly gas and
"There's a lot of things
besides gas and oil I haven't considered," Joe replied. "But
practically all of them cost the same for an old car as for a new one.
It costs just as much for example, to have a dent rolled out of a fender of
an old car as it does for a new one."
"You use about the same amount
of gas and oil for each mile, no matter whether you have a new car or an old
one - provided you keep the old car in good shape," Gus cut in, as he
finished tightening the brakes. "Of course if you keep on using a car
after the rings get to leaking and she starts to pump oil, you lose more
than the cost of the repairs in the extra gas and oil you have to buy."
"Makes quite a difference,"
said Joe, his pencil busily scratching. "In your case, Russell, if
your gasoline mileage fell off from eighteen to fifteen to the gallon, it
would cost you nearly fifty dollars more a year for gas to drive the miles
"Or somewhere in the
neighborhood of thirteen dollars in my case, eh?" Jones broke in.
"Well, Jim, guess we better be getting back to the store. Maybe I'll
give you a bigger order than I intended to, after what Joe has told me about
the cost of the new car. What I can't see, Gus, being as how you're in
the repair business, why don't you urge people to keep their old cars and
get 'em repaired here?"
Gus grinned, "Why should I,
Larry? If you trade in your car and buy a new one, somebody'll buy
your old car and then maybe I'll have two customers instead of one!"