Cash For Clunkers – A pretty good idea . . .

Seth Kaplan

Environmentalists tend to be the kind of people who hang on to things.  Keenly aware of the impact of constantly buying new things – whether it be cars, appliances or other “hard goods” – the kind of folks who are CLF members (and are likely reading this) tend to avoid buying new things.  This is especially true where buying something new, like a new car, simply means shifting the use of the old item to someone else.  Driving a new efficient hybrid car is not a satisfying experience if you are aware that your older, less efficient car, will end up back on the road.

However, if you own an older car and want to move to a newer more efficient model while being sure that your old car will be scrapped and taken off the road the Federal Government has a deal for you.

Here are the basic rules for the program, as presented by the Feds:

  • Your vehicle must be less than 25 years old on the trade-in date
  • Only purchase or lease of new vehicles qualify
  • Generally, trade-in vehicles must get 18 or less MPG (some very large pick-up trucks and cargo vans have different requirements)
  • Trade-in vehicles must be registered and insured continuously for the full year preceding the trade-in
  • You don’t need a voucher, dealers will apply a credit at purchase
  • Program runs through Nov 1, 2009 or when the funds are exhausted, whichever comes first.
  • The program requires the scrapping of your eligible trade-in vehicle, and that the dealer disclose to you an estimate of the scrap value of your trade-in. The scrap value, however minimal, will be in addition to the rebate, and not in place of the rebate.

Fortunately, the supply of cleaner and more efficient cars available for sale continues to expand, thanks in large part to the rules requiring a shift in the new car fleet mandated by the rules adopted by the Northeastern states (following the lead of California).   We are proud to note that CLF played a key role in defending those rules in court.

Update (August 6, 2009):

Unless you have been living in a cave you will have heard that the program is on the verge of running out of money and efforts are being made to “refuel it”.

Attempts at looking at the potential environmental benefits of the program range from the skeptical to the mildly positive to the fiercely negative.  A good middle ground was the comment of a leading environmental lawyer reported by CNET News:

“It’s not that it’s a bad idea; just don’t sell it as a cost-effective energy savings method,” Michael Gerrard, director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University said in an academic journal. “From an economic standpoint it seems to be a roaring success. From an environment and energy perspective, it’s not where you would put your first dollar.”

The critiques of the program have some serious validity.  Would it be better for this money to be spent on public transit operations ?  Would a fundamental change in the funding paradigm that would shift money from roads to transit (as CLF has called for in our Five Steps for the Next Five Years climate vision document) be much better? Absolutely yes.

But my pragmatic bottom line is that this program has far more environmental benefit than so many other things the Federal government does and pays for that it is hard to get worked up about this one.

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84 Responses to “Cash For Clunkers – A pretty good idea . . .”

  1. mike from mass

    The program while interesting, is not without its headaches. First we were told that we need to bring in our deck page from our insurance policies which shows the car has been registed and insured for the required period of time. Then that got changed to a letter from our insurance company stating the car has been insured and then to the prior year registration.

    Since the prior year registration is of no vaule why would anyone keep paper hanging around when it can be recycled. So now we need to go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and get some type of copy of the registration. So much for not wasting gas.

  2. mike from mass

    The program while interesting, is not without its headaches. First we were told that we need to bring in our deck page from our insurance policies which shows the car has been registed and insured for the required period of time. Then that got changed to a letter from our insurance company stating the car has been insured and then to the prior year registration.

    Since the prior year registration is of no vaule why would anyone keep paper hanging around when it can be recycled. So now we need to go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and get some type of copy of the registration. So much for not wasting gas.

  3. mike from mass

    The program while interesting, is not without its headaches. First we were told that we need to bring in our deck page from our insurance policies which shows the car has been registed and insured for the required period of time. Then that got changed to a letter from our insurance company stating the car has been insured and then to the prior year registration.

    Since the prior year registration is of no vaule why would anyone keep paper hanging around when it can be recycled. So now we need to go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and get some type of copy of the registration. So much for not wasting gas.

  4. mike from mass

    The program while interesting, is not without its headaches. First we were told that we need to bring in our deck page from our insurance policies which shows the car has been registed and insured for the required period of time. Then that got changed to a letter from our insurance company stating the car has been insured and then to the prior year registration.

    Since the prior year registration is of no vaule why would anyone keep paper hanging around when it can be recycled. So now we need to go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and get some type of copy of the registration. So much for not wasting gas.

  5. Tim Jones

    Do you realize the recycled cars will go through a process where the engine is run with sodium silicate (liquid glass) in the crankcase until the engine will no longer idle. This is a burden on the auto recyclers since the majority of their income from each automobile if from the resale of the engine and other drive train components.

    So where are the 200,000 (more if the program is extended) seized engines going to go? A scrap ship to China!

    • mark wood

      i went to one of thes places and it is terible i am 35 and a free lance mechanic ther were all kinds of parts and complete running cars that a guy like me could use to make extra mony.the cars i was told were going to be scraped the next day.
      if i could come into this yard 1 or 2 days with some help we could pull as many parts as we could before they are crushed then put them on the internet lots of peple could use theas part that can not aford a new car and who knows it might creat jobs in a terrible economy

      signed mark wood Pleasent hill oregon

  6. Tim Jones

    Do you realize the recycled cars will go through a process where the engine is run with sodium silicate (liquid glass) in the crankcase until the engine will no longer idle. This is a burden on the auto recyclers since the majority of their income from each automobile if from the resale of the engine and other drive train components.

    So where are the 200,000 (more if the program is extended) seized engines going to go? A scrap ship to China!

    • mark wood

      i went to one of thes places and it is terible i am 35 and a free lance mechanic ther were all kinds of parts and complete running cars that a guy like me could use to make extra mony.the cars i was told were going to be scraped the next day.
      if i could come into this yard 1 or 2 days with some help we could pull as many parts as we could before they are crushed then put them on the internet lots of peple could use theas part that can not aford a new car and who knows it might creat jobs in a terrible economy

      signed mark wood Pleasent hill oregon

  7. Tim Jones

    Do you realize the recycled cars will go through a process where the engine is run with sodium silicate (liquid glass) in the crankcase until the engine will no longer idle. This is a burden on the auto recyclers since the majority of their income from each automobile if from the resale of the engine and other drive train components.

    So where are the 200,000 (more if the program is extended) seized engines going to go? A scrap ship to China!

    • mark wood

      i went to one of thes places and it is terible i am 35 and a free lance mechanic ther were all kinds of parts and complete running cars that a guy like me could use to make extra mony.the cars i was told were going to be scraped the next day.
      if i could come into this yard 1 or 2 days with some help we could pull as many parts as we could before they are crushed then put them on the internet lots of peple could use theas part that can not aford a new car and who knows it might creat jobs in a terrible economy

      signed mark wood Pleasent hill oregon

  8. Tim Jones

    Do you realize the recycled cars will go through a process where the engine is run with sodium silicate (liquid glass) in the crankcase until the engine will no longer idle. This is a burden on the auto recyclers since the majority of their income from each automobile if from the resale of the engine and other drive train components.

    So where are the 200,000 (more if the program is extended) seized engines going to go? A scrap ship to China!

    • mark wood

      i went to one of thes places and it is terible i am 35 and a free lance mechanic ther were all kinds of parts and complete running cars that a guy like me could use to make extra mony.the cars i was told were going to be scraped the next day.
      if i could come into this yard 1 or 2 days with some help we could pull as many parts as we could before they are crushed then put them on the internet lots of peple could use theas part that can not aford a new car and who knows it might creat jobs in a terrible economy

      signed mark wood Pleasent hill oregon

  9. Ford participating in Cash for Clunkers.

    In Ayer, Mass., Ford is doing the opposite and jeopardizing our water supply. Ford is partnering with a known polluter — Pan Am Railways — to pave 25 acres over an aquifer that supplies 15,000 people in Massachusetts.

    This is unacceptable. PLEASE contact Ford immediately and protest. Paving is imminent. Railroads have the federal right to build a nuclear power plant on their land, should they so choose. Public outcry is our only weapon.

    Take a minute and tell Ford you won’t purchase a Ford vehicle because of their environmentally irresponsible behavior.
    Go to:
    https://secure.ford.com/footer/contact-ford/contact-us-email?contactMainTopic=CommunityEnvironment.

  10. Ford participating in Cash for Clunkers.

    In Ayer, Mass., Ford is doing the opposite and jeopardizing our water supply. Ford is partnering with a known polluter — Pan Am Railways — to pave 25 acres over an aquifer that supplies 15,000 people in Massachusetts.

    This is unacceptable. PLEASE contact Ford immediately and protest. Paving is imminent. Railroads have the federal right to build a nuclear power plant on their land, should they so choose. Public outcry is our only weapon.

    Take a minute and tell Ford you won’t purchase a Ford vehicle because of their environmentally irresponsible behavior.
    Go to:
    https://secure.ford.com/footer/contact-ford/contact-us-email?contactMainTopic=CommunityEnvironment.

  11. Ford participating in Cash for Clunkers.

    In Ayer, Mass., Ford is doing the opposite and jeopardizing our water supply. Ford is partnering with a known polluter — Pan Am Railways — to pave 25 acres over an aquifer that supplies 15,000 people in Massachusetts.

    This is unacceptable. PLEASE contact Ford immediately and protest. Paving is imminent. Railroads have the federal right to build a nuclear power plant on their land, should they so choose. Public outcry is our only weapon.

    Take a minute and tell Ford you won’t purchase a Ford vehicle because of their environmentally irresponsible behavior.
    Go to:
    https://secure.ford.com/footer/contact-ford/contact-us-email?contactMainTopic=CommunityEnvironment.

  12. Ford participating in Cash for Clunkers.

    In Ayer, Mass., Ford is doing the opposite and jeopardizing our water supply. Ford is partnering with a known polluter — Pan Am Railways — to pave 25 acres over an aquifer that supplies 15,000 people in Massachusetts.

    This is unacceptable. PLEASE contact Ford immediately and protest. Paving is imminent. Railroads have the federal right to build a nuclear power plant on their land, should they so choose. Public outcry is our only weapon.

    Take a minute and tell Ford you won’t purchase a Ford vehicle because of their environmentally irresponsible behavior.
    Go to:
    https://secure.ford.com/footer/contact-ford/contact-us-email?contactMainTopic=CommunityEnvironment.

  13. Though I can see some reluctance to criticize a stimulus program that is relatively poplar, I’m still somewhat surprised Seth posted such a positive comment about this program, even though it is another vast subsidy for the auto industry and drivers, even though that to get $3500 when trading in a truck, you need improve the mpg by only 1 mpg, (by 2mpg to get $4500) (so I read, please correct if wrong), even though it seems at least the original billion was taken from funds that would have supported alternative energy, even though it rewards bad behavior by making those who bought efficient vehicles subsidize those who didn’t, even though it distorts the used car market that low income people depend on, and even though there was no option permitted to trade a clunker for some kind of transit pass….
    I do see some improvement in the overall fleet coming out of this, but whether this would have happened anyway (though more gradually) as some say should have been analyzed. I think we should about this stuff now before the program or something like it is reauthorized again.

  14. Though I can see some reluctance to criticize a stimulus program that is relatively poplar, I’m still somewhat surprised Seth posted such a positive comment about this program, even though it is another vast subsidy for the auto industry and drivers, even though that to get $3500 when trading in a truck, you need improve the mpg by only 1 mpg, (by 2mpg to get $4500) (so I read, please correct if wrong), even though it seems at least the original billion was taken from funds that would have supported alternative energy, even though it rewards bad behavior by making those who bought efficient vehicles subsidize those who didn’t, even though it distorts the used car market that low income people depend on, and even though there was no option permitted to trade a clunker for some kind of transit pass….
    I do see some improvement in the overall fleet coming out of this, but whether this would have happened anyway (though more gradually) as some say should have been analyzed. I think we should about this stuff now before the program or something like it is reauthorized again.

  15. Though I can see some reluctance to criticize a stimulus program that is relatively poplar, I’m still somewhat surprised Seth posted such a positive comment about this program, even though it is another vast subsidy for the auto industry and drivers, even though that to get $3500 when trading in a truck, you need improve the mpg by only 1 mpg, (by 2mpg to get $4500) (so I read, please correct if wrong), even though it seems at least the original billion was taken from funds that would have supported alternative energy, even though it rewards bad behavior by making those who bought efficient vehicles subsidize those who didn’t, even though it distorts the used car market that low income people depend on, and even though there was no option permitted to trade a clunker for some kind of transit pass….
    I do see some improvement in the overall fleet coming out of this, but whether this would have happened anyway (though more gradually) as some say should have been analyzed. I think we should about this stuff now before the program or something like it is reauthorized again.

  16. Though I can see some reluctance to criticize a stimulus program that is relatively poplar, I’m still somewhat surprised Seth posted such a positive comment about this program, even though it is another vast subsidy for the auto industry and drivers, even though that to get $3500 when trading in a truck, you need improve the mpg by only 1 mpg, (by 2mpg to get $4500) (so I read, please correct if wrong), even though it seems at least the original billion was taken from funds that would have supported alternative energy, even though it rewards bad behavior by making those who bought efficient vehicles subsidize those who didn’t, even though it distorts the used car market that low income people depend on, and even though there was no option permitted to trade a clunker for some kind of transit pass….
    I do see some improvement in the overall fleet coming out of this, but whether this would have happened anyway (though more gradually) as some say should have been analyzed. I think we should about this stuff now before the program or something like it is reauthorized again.

  17. the program is a joke because the car dealers raise the price to make the public think that it is a good price at the tax payers expense And the government will pay more money to the whores that make and sell cars keep the old clunker and stack it in the yard like rednecks do

    • mark wood

      if thats wht u call a red neck im glade 2 be one cause i make my money from asses like you by selling those parts from those stakes of cars that helps fuel my family. MARK WOOD PLEASANT HILL OREGOLN

  18. the program is a joke because the car dealers raise the price to make the public think that it is a good price at the tax payers expense And the government will pay more money to the whores that make and sell cars keep the old clunker and stack it in the yard like rednecks do

    • mark wood

      if thats wht u call a red neck im glade 2 be one cause i make my money from asses like you by selling those parts from those stakes of cars that helps fuel my family. MARK WOOD PLEASANT HILL OREGOLN

  19. the program is a joke because the car dealers raise the price to make the public think that it is a good price at the tax payers expense And the government will pay more money to the whores that make and sell cars keep the old clunker and stack it in the yard like rednecks do

    • mark wood

      if thats wht u call a red neck im glade 2 be one cause i make my money from asses like you by selling those parts from those stakes of cars that helps fuel my family. MARK WOOD PLEASANT HILL OREGOLN

  20. the program is a joke because the car dealers raise the price to make the public think that it is a good price at the tax payers expense And the government will pay more money to the whores that make and sell cars keep the old clunker and stack it in the yard like rednecks do

    • mark wood

      if thats wht u call a red neck im glade 2 be one cause i make my money from asses like you by selling those parts from those stakes of cars that helps fuel my family. MARK WOOD PLEASANT HILL OREGOLN

  21. Peanut9244

    This CARS program was a big farce. It stated that cars 25 years and under would qualify along with other restrictions.
    I have a 1994 Ford Tempo that is being held together with spit and chewing gum and is starting to cost me a fortune in repairs. I called our Ford dealership here and made an appointment to have to car looked at.
    I took all the required information to them along with a print out of the RULES OBAMA STIPULATED FOR THE C.A.R.S. PROGRAM, needless to say I don’t trust the government. I get there only to find out my 1994 Ford Tempo did not qualify because the engine that came with the care get between 28 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on the highway.
    SO MUCH FOR OBAMA AND HIS PROMISES…..
    I’m converting to the Republican party.

  22. Peanut9244

    This CARS program was a big farce. It stated that cars 25 years and under would qualify along with other restrictions.
    I have a 1994 Ford Tempo that is being held together with spit and chewing gum and is starting to cost me a fortune in repairs. I called our Ford dealership here and made an appointment to have to car looked at.
    I took all the required information to them along with a print out of the RULES OBAMA STIPULATED FOR THE C.A.R.S. PROGRAM, needless to say I don’t trust the government. I get there only to find out my 1994 Ford Tempo did not qualify because the engine that came with the care get between 28 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on the highway.
    SO MUCH FOR OBAMA AND HIS PROMISES…..
    I’m converting to the Republican party.

  23. Peanut9244

    This CARS program was a big farce. It stated that cars 25 years and under would qualify along with other restrictions.
    I have a 1994 Ford Tempo that is being held together with spit and chewing gum and is starting to cost me a fortune in repairs. I called our Ford dealership here and made an appointment to have to car looked at.
    I took all the required information to them along with a print out of the RULES OBAMA STIPULATED FOR THE C.A.R.S. PROGRAM, needless to say I don’t trust the government. I get there only to find out my 1994 Ford Tempo did not qualify because the engine that came with the care get between 28 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on the highway.
    SO MUCH FOR OBAMA AND HIS PROMISES…..
    I’m converting to the Republican party.

  24. Peanut9244

    This CARS program was a big farce. It stated that cars 25 years and under would qualify along with other restrictions.
    I have a 1994 Ford Tempo that is being held together with spit and chewing gum and is starting to cost me a fortune in repairs. I called our Ford dealership here and made an appointment to have to car looked at.
    I took all the required information to them along with a print out of the RULES OBAMA STIPULATED FOR THE C.A.R.S. PROGRAM, needless to say I don’t trust the government. I get there only to find out my 1994 Ford Tempo did not qualify because the engine that came with the care get between 28 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on the highway.
    SO MUCH FOR OBAMA AND HIS PROMISES…..
    I’m converting to the Republican party.

  25. I bought my car new in 1997. It has over 300K on it, but the program will not allow me to use the program, because the mpg was 24. Why are we being punished for thinking of fuel economy over 10 years ago.

  26. I bought my car new in 1997. It has over 300K on it, but the program will not allow me to use the program, because the mpg was 24. Why are we being punished for thinking of fuel economy over 10 years ago.

  27. I bought my car new in 1997. It has over 300K on it, but the program will not allow me to use the program, because the mpg was 24. Why are we being punished for thinking of fuel economy over 10 years ago.

  28. I bought my car new in 1997. It has over 300K on it, but the program will not allow me to use the program, because the mpg was 24. Why are we being punished for thinking of fuel economy over 10 years ago.

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