"This job is going to nick your bank roll
good and plenty," said Gus Wilson, half owner and chief mechanic of the
Model Garage, as he looked up from young Baldwin's car. "Your motor is
full of carbon, the valves need grinding, the bearings ought to be taken up,
and the brakes relined, and I think, from the way she pumps oil, that you
need a new set of piston rings."
Joe Clark, who ran the office and
sales end of the garage, was figuring rapidly on a piece of paper.
"Let's see," he said, as he totaled
the various items Gus had enumerated. "I think a hundred and
sixty-five dollars ought to cover it, unless Gus finds something else that
needs fixing - and I'm making the price as low as possible at that."
"Holy smoke!" gasped Baldwin. "I
guess I'll have to park the car here for the rest of the winter while I try
to raise the dough. How about giving me a little time on the bill,
Joe. Can you do that?"
"I'd like to," replied Joe. "But
Gus and I have to eat, too, so I guess we can't let you have more than
thirty days. By the way, Baldwin, seems to me you are running yourself
into a hole with that machine. Haven't you found it a bit more
expensive than you figured on?"
"You said it!" Baldwin answered
gloomily. "I'm making fifty bucks a week and I had a bit saved up, so
I made the first payment easily enough. But there have been so many
expenses that I never thought about when I decided to buy a car."
"That's just the trouble," stated Joe
emphatically. "You buy a car on a shoe-string and you're in up to your neck
before you realize it. A lot of people own autos who really can't
afford a car at all, and a lot more buy expensive cars when they ought to
get cheap, light once. And all because they never stop to do a little
"Look here," he continued slipping his
pencil out of his pocket again. "Unless you're a millionaire, you
ought to look at this automobile proposition as transportation at so many
cents a mile. And you're kidding yourself if you dope out the cost per
mile in gas and tires and let it go at that. Take depreciation for
instance. That car of yours cost around fifteen hundred. In five
years it will be about ready for the scrap pile. You may be able to
sell it at the end of that time for, say, two hundred dollars. That
means you have to charge up thirteen hundred against the miles you travel in
that length of time, and if you cover thirty thousand miles it comes to a
bit more than four cents a mile.
"Gas at present prices works out to
around a cent a mile. Tires - if you are lucky - may cost as little as
two cents a mile. That makes seven cents a mile and we have not
included insurance, storage, or repairs.
"Insurance runs to about a cent and a
half a mile, storage at ten dollars a month comes to two cents a mile, and
repairs certainly will mount up to another two cents on a car like yours.
Throw in another half cent for oil and miscellaneous items and the total
figures up to the flat sum of thirteen cents a mile. You'd kick like a
steer if a railroad charged you that!
"Can you and the wife and kid live on
thirty-five dollars a week? That's all you have left out of your
salary if you spend about fifteen dollars a week on a car."
"Gee whiz! You sure are one
cheerful guy, Joe!" croaked Baldwin dismally.
"Well, what's the answer? Should
I sell the bus as soon as I get it paid for?"
Joe scratched his head thoughtfully,
"No," he said, "don't do that. It wouldn't help any now. The
biggest depreciation comes the first year and if you have got along so far,
I guess you'll make out without going to the poorhouse.
"If you'd asked my advice before you
bought the car, I'd have told you to get a cheaper and lighter make - and
that doesn't necessarily mean a flivver. What you can do, though, is
to use the car a lot less than you do. Why, most every night I see you
go by on your way to the stores for some errand. Lay off that errand
stuff unless it's raining."
"Humph!" growled Gus as he jammed
another load of tobacco in the bowl of his vile smelling pipe. "That's
a heck of a way to tell a fellow to economize! Still - lots of men
would rather ride fifty miles in a heavy car than a hundred in a light one.
Tell you what, though, Baldwin, you can economize right now by doing most of
the repair work on this car yourself. You are right handy with tools
and I've got more work than I can handle anyhow. In fact, I really
couldn't get at your car till next week."
"I wonder if I could?" mused Baldwin.
"By jinks, I'm going to try it! It's either that or go without
"Go to it," Gus encouraged. "If
you get stuck, we can always help you out."
"Thanks for the advice, Gus, I'll take
the boat house and make a start tonight," said Baldwin more cheerfully.
"By the way, Joe, speaking about the
cost of running a car, you seem to have all the dope right at the end of
your pencil. Why not show me a good way to keep track of how much it's
costing me to run the bus?"
"That's easy," replied Joe, pulling
out his notebook. "Of course there have been a lot of systems worked
out to keep auto records and some of them are fine, but so complicated.
"My system, though, is really nothing
but a logbook such as the mate of a ship keeps. Only I use the miles
on the speedometer instead of the dates on the calendar. It is so
simple that you don't need any complicated forms, and you can make it just
as complete as you want.
"Take one page in your notebook and
label the column at the left 'miles.'
Mark the next column 'gas,' the third
'oil,' the fourth 'tires,' and the fifth 'repair.' Keep your notebook
handy and whenever you buy gas or oil, or have a tube vulcanized, or any
repair work done, put down the miles your speedometer shows and the amount
and cost of the gas or whatever it is that you are spending money on.
For instance, suppose you make a stop for gas. While the gas is being
pumped into your tank you'll have plenty of time to make a note of it."
"What about those other expenses you
mentioned - depreciation, insurance, and so forth?" Baldwin inquired
as Joe paused to catch his breath.
"I don't put those down on my regular
auto log page," answered Joe. "I use another page and simply jot down
each item as I pay for it, with the date and the speedometer reading.
That applies to everything except depreciation. You can't tell what
depreciation amounts to until you have sold or junked your car.
"Everything about a car can be figured
on a mileage basis except depreciation.
Theoretically, at least, depreciation
is determined by the number of miles you travel, but that applies only when
you own and run the car for its entire useful life. If you sell it
while it still is useful, the amount you must charge up against the miles
you have driven will depend on what you get for the car when you sell it and
that, in turn, is dependent on the condition of the secondhand market.
"Mechanical depreciation - the actual
wearing out of the parts of the machine - also depends to a large extent on
how carefully you use it. I mentioned a few minutes ago that your car
would be worn out in five years, figuring 30,000 miles of use during that
time. That estimate is based on just ordinary care. With extra
care, you may be able to more than double that mileage before the car is
ready for the junk pile.
"That seems clear enough," agreed
Baldwin: "but how does it help you to cut mileage cost just to put down the
gasoline you buy?"
"Well," replied Joe, "It tells you one
thing and that is the actual mileage you are getting out of the gas.
Lots of fellows claim high gas mileage. Most times they are talking
through their hats. They have no figures to prove it, and if they did
make an actual test, it was under favorable conditions.
"If you keep your record my way, you
can get the real facts in the case any time you want them. Just add up
the column of gas purchases and divide the result into the miles you have
covered. In this way you can tell how many miles you get in winter or in
summer, and if you check up every month or so, you can tell pretty well when
your car needs repairs.
"If, for instance, you notice a sudden
falling off of two miles to the gallon that you can't account for by a cold
spell or lots of short runs, you can be pretty durn sure that something
needs attention. I discovered a worn out rear axle bearing that way -
or rather Gus did it for me. I noticed that I was not getting the full
number of miles to the gallon, and Gus found that the bearing had worn so
that it let the brake band up where it was rubbing against the brake shoe.
"Another time I noticed that the motor
was using less oil than usual. That seemed funny to me, so Gus looked
into it and found a small piece of brake band had come off and partly
clogged up the oil pipe. Enough oil got through to keep the motor from
heating up, but if I hadn't found it in time, the lack of oil would have
raised hob with the motor."
"I'm convinced, all right," said
Baldwin, pulling out his own notebook and thumbing it over to find a couple
of blank pages. "I'll never spend another cent on this bus without
entering it in my log, you can bet on that. Well, I guess I'd better
be running along now. I'm going to tackle the motor first."
"Say, Gus," said Joe after Baldwin had
left, "what's the idea of passing up a good job like that?"
"Forget it!" Gus growled. "We've
got plenty of work now. Besides, the kid can't afford it."
"Humph!" replied Joe with a twinkle in
his eye. "That's a new one on me - a soft hearted guy in the garage