Tracking Down Andy's Lexus

<B>Rooney</B> Follows The Trail Of An Old Friend

The following is a weekly 60 Minutes commentary by CBS News Correspondent Andy Rooney. 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?

Mong: Yeh!

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