Only three days old, the Cash for Clunkers program – officially known as the C.A.R.S. (Car Allowance Rebate System) Act – has already burned through 10% of the 1 billion allocated by the government for the purchase of new, fuel-efficient vehicles. In the first day alone, a record 4,026 sales were made using Cash for Clunkers provisions, a trend which is threatening to exhaust funding ahead of the program’s November 1st cut-off date. Fortunately, in order to somewhat stymie the flow of traffic, the EPA took it upon themselves to “revise” the MPG ratings for various cars, making them ineligible for participation by the faintest of margins. Sound ridiculous? Well yes, it is.
Lets say you have a, oh, I don’t know, 1996 Volvo 850 with 227,534 miles on the odometer, no working interior lights, a driver information system prone to phantom safety alerts, and an ignition timing problem that sounds like it would cost more to repair than the car is worth. To the unenlightened, such a car might seem worthy of the “clunker” moniker, but the federal government apparently begs to differ. According to the definitions set forth by the C.A.R.S. legislation, in order to be eligible for the incentive, the “clunker” in question must have a combined fuel economy rating no greater than 18 mpg (assuming that it’s a passenger car, mpg requirements vary for trucks and vans). So even if your ’96 850 hasn’t achieved its optimal fuel-consumption rating since the Clinton Administration, because it’s rated at a combined 19mpg, you’re SOL.
For those consumers who were not responsible in their used car selection, your bad decisions could be rewarded. As long as your rust bucket is less than 25 years old, has a combined fuel economy rating of 18 mpg or less, and has been continuously insured and registered to the same owner for at least 1 calendar year, it’s considered an official “clunker” and is thus eligible for up to $4,500 in incentives.
If you aren’t sure whether or not the EPA has given you the shaft, visit fueleconomy.gov and select your year, make, and model to calculate your “new” combined fuel efficiency.
To write an angry letter to your congressperson or state representative, which we are in no way encouraging that you do, locate their information in the official government directory here.
Image Cred: AP Photo