The following is a weekly 60 Minutes commentary by CBS News Correspondent. It was first broadcast on Oct. 17, 2004.
I drive a lot, and by the time I've had a car for a few years, I get attached to it.
I drove a Ford station wagon for eight years. I put 135,000 miles on it.
A few months ago, I traded in my five-year-old Lexus with 85,000 miles on it for a smaller BMW. I worry about what happens to an old friend, so I decided to find out.
The BMW dealer in Connecticut gave me $10,000 on a trade-in, so I started to trace my old car there. All of a sudden, someone stepped in front of the camera and stopped the interview.
Man: Mr. Rooney, we prefer that you don't film anything inside our dealership, sir.
I felt like Mike Wallace. I figured they must be doing something sneaky. The next day, the owner ruined my story, though, by apologizing and sending me a good letter telling me everything.
He sold my car to a company called European Auto Wholesalers in New Jersey for exactly what he gave me for it — $10,000. Then, European charged him a fee of $1,000 to sell it.
European wouldn't talk to me, probably because they made the most on the deal. Basically, they paid $9,000 for the car and sold it to another wholesaler, Adcock Brothers, for $13,500.
The used-car business is so complicated that I can understand why you see so many old cars for sale in people's front yards. It eliminates all the middlemen.
Adcock spent about $1,500 fixing it up, taking out the dents. I hope someone found the quarters I dropped between the front seats.
Adcock then took it to the biggest car sales lot in the whole world, in Manheim, Pa.
Adcock paid Manheim $230 to auction off the car. Adcock was the only loser in this whole deal. My Lexus went to Unique Motors, a classy used-car dealer in Philadelphia, for $14,860. That didn't quite cover Adcock's costs and they lost a few hundred dollars.
Unique Motors sold it to a man named T. Mong in Pennsauken, N.J., for $16,700. This is the same car for which I got $10,000.
We had Mr. Mong's address and went looking for his house. There it was! My old friend was sitting in Mr. Mong's driveway. It looked so good I wondered why I ever turned it in. It looked lonesome, though, and I felt bad about having abandoned it to strangers.
I knocked on the door and Mr. Mong came out with his wife and son. His English was about like my Vietnamese.
Rooney: Do you like it? Did you drive it? You drove it before you bought it?
The only consolation for me was that the Mongs love my old car and that made me feel better.
But anyway, so I'm not Mike Wallace. I didn't find any bad guys in the used-car business. No one cheated. The odometer of the car I turned in was still at 85,000 miles when Mr. Mong bought it.
Next time I buy a new car, though, I think I'll put my old one for sale on our front lawn.
Written By Andy Rooney
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