Culture Car News Congress Debates “Cash for Clunkers” Proposal

Culture Car News

Uncle Sam wants your ’88 Ford Bronco, and he’s willing to overpay.

Under a proposal introduced in Congress on Wednesday, the federal government may pay Americans to turn in older, higher-emissions cars and buy new, more efficient models, or decide to ride public transit. The money would be paid in the form of a voucher that could be used toward the purchase of a newer car, or toward commuting costs on public transit, so simply selling unused cars to the government and pocketing cash won’t be an option.

The AP explains, “Drivers would be eligible for reimbursement for purchase of a new or used vehicle with a fuel economy rating that exceeds federal targets for that class of vehicle by at least 25 percent. The vehicle must have a manufacturer suggested retail price of less than $45,000 and be a model year 2004 or later.” The value of the voucher would depend on the value of the trade-in. “In the first year of the program, a person trading in a vehicle that is model year 2002 and later would be eligible to receive $4,500 for purchase of a new vehicle, $3,000 for purchase of a used vehicle or $3,000 for transit fare credit. For model year vehicles 1999 to 2001, drivers would get $3,000 for the purchase of a new vehicle. Those who trade in vehicles that came out in 1998 or before could get a credit of $2,000 for a new vehicle.”

In many cases, the government plan would offer consumers more money for their old cars than a dealership would on trade-in. The government would simply scrap the old cars.

What’s the point?

Actually, there are two. The Detroit News explains, “The move would take dirtier cars off the roads and boost slumping auto sales.”

A Detroit Free Press editorial in support of the plan notes, “Older cars emit far more local pollution. A California study, for example, found that in 2010, vehicles from model year 1998 or earlier will be responsible for 25 percent of miles driven but 75 percent of local pollution.”

The move would also cut into oil consumption, the Free Press comments. “Consider that if two people drive the same number of miles, the one who switches from an SUV that gets 10 miles-per-gallon to one that gets 12 will actually save more gasoline than the person who switches from a sedan that gets 30 miles-per-gallon to a hybrid that gets 50.”

The plan, however, has opposition – from the people who work on older cars. Canadian Driver reports, “Seven trade associations, representing the automotive aftermarket, have raised objections to” the plan, saying that such programs “threaten jobs in the automotive aftermarket, since they remove the opportunity to repair and upgrade existing cars and raise the price of used cars and parts.”

The idea isn’t new – we reported back in July that several states have offered “cash for clunkers” programs in recent years. But nothing on such a scale has ever been attempted. As the bill makes its way through Congress, we’ll keep you updated.

In the meantime, if you are planning to trade in your old car, research the best car deals with U.S. News’ car rankings and reviews.

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