Cash for Clunkers Not as Bad as We Thought

Well, the House of Representatives approved the Cash for Clunkers bill last night. That means drivers trading an older car for a more fuel efficient one can get up to a $4500 toward their new car from the government. But what’s this? Congress squeezed in a couple of provisions squeezed that make it perhaps not as catastrophic as we had feared.

1. To get $3500, the trade-in car needs to get 18mpg or less and the new car needs to get 22mpg or more. To get $4500 the difference needs to be 10 mpg better over the trade-in.

Excellent! Most nostalgics get pretty good fuel economy. 18mpg is easily within reach and in many cases they get way more, making it all the harder to find a modern equivalent that gets at least 4mpg more.

2. The bill targets 1985 or newer cars, so most of your precious chrome-laden J-tin is safe. Apparently the EPA didn’t track the “Combined Fuel Economy” before then, so they can’t determine what qualifies without jumping an extra hurdle.

For 1978-84 cars, the Secretary of Transportation gets to decide the mileage figure, which will be posted on the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin website. No provision is made for pre-1978 cars so those get off Scott free.

For enthusiasts of late 80s Japanese steel, grab ’em while you can. Trade-ins must be scrapped, and although you can strip off any part excluding the engine block, how many average drivers are going to do that? Fortunately cars from this era are still plentiful and cheap.

So breathe a sigh of relief for now, and keep your fingers crossed because now the bill has to go onto the Senate – where changes may occur – before being signed by President Obama.

[Jalopnik, Detroit News]

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13 Responses to Cash for Clunkers Not as Bad as We Thought

  1. Bob says:

    So are pre ’78 cars totally safe or…?

    I’m still not fond of this, but it’s an improvement.

  2. banpei says:

    It looks like a better deal than we have in the Netherlands! 🙂
    But what about the “possible” future classics from the late 80s then? 🙁
    Sure, they are still plentiful and cheap, but scrapping them in masses will even make them more scarce! On the other hand: that’s exactly what happened 5 to 10 years ago. People didn’t think cars older than 15 to 20 years, like the KE70 and AE86, were worth keeping…

  3. Ben says:

    It appears pre-78 cars are safe for now, because they don’t seem to qualify for any of the categories in which Uncle Sam might dole out money.

  4. Dan says:

    Don’t forget, the trade-ins need to be registered and insured for the past 12 months as well. This will further limit the number of people who qualify.

    Let’s not start celebrating just yet though. If this program is a success, future bills might seek to target pre 85 cars as well.

  5. Ben says:

    Oh yeah… good point Dan!

  6. Rob V says:

    As a fan of ’80’s cars & trucks I’m not happy about this. They should have worded the bill to focus more on all those gas guzzling SUV’s they built in the 90’s (i.e. Surburban, Excursion, Expedition, Tahoe, etc. ) Those are probably 10X more harmful to the environment than the average car built in the 80’s.

    Couple questions:

    Any idea when the Senate vote will happen?

    Are there restrictions so that only one voucher is given out per household? Or could a husband & wife (son, daughter,…) each collect a voucher if they traded in a car?

  7. GEN2TWINCAM says:

    Banpei makes the excellent point that future desirable cars (to us) are in jeopardy. Plus, the target will most likely keep shifting.

    I also like Bob V’s idea to get the Escalards, Excretions, and Sloburbans of the road. Besides the fuel savings, it could make the roads safer for people like us who still drive cars 🙂

  8. Oyaji Gaijin says:

    I would be more happy if the law were written that the vehicles turned in must be disassembled, warehoused, and made available for sale as used parts IE: RECYCLED!

    No matter what is crushed, there will be a group that is a fan of that car, can make use of all those parts, and will be at a loss without those vehicles for reuse or spare parts in the future. What’s the allegory about they came for this group, and I wasn’t affected, so I said nothing, and when they finally came for my group, there was no one left to speak for me.
    SEMA and others stand up for all groups, and we should not let this slide without voicing opposition on behalf of the others that will return the favor to us.

    This is the same bunch of politicians that is supposed to be environmentally responsible, and they are requiring the turned in vehicles to be crushed and destroyed. That is not environmentally responsible.

  9. F3ARED says:

    Worth considering that the cash-for-clunkers scheme also seems like an anti-recession bandaid, to try convince consumers/the public to fork out and buy a new car which in doubt would help the economy.

    As much as i love old cars, i would support something similar in Aus PROVIDED our stupid government made the provision that cars bought MUST be locally made to support local jobs. Otherwise the money just goes straight back overseas.

  10. Ben says:

    We don’t know yet when the Senate will vote. They will likely pore over every word and make some changes of their own, so older cars are not entirely out of the woods yet.

    Of course, as an owner of an ’86 Cressida I am very worried about the fate of 80s cars. Considering the alternative though, we seemed to have escaped (for now) a mass crushing of the rarest cars. There’s still time to write your senator about 80s cars but if that fails, start collecting parts.

  11. Bob says:

    I’m with the above, this still is far from cool.

    Most of the vehicles that cause issue are trucks and SUVs made in the past decade that still see regular use and are worth more than what they want to offer, so this is still targeting the wrong cars.

    And even some of these SUVs have drivetrains I’d kill for to have for my Impala.

    For that matter, they’re likely to scrap mid ’90s GM B-bodies with LT1s that I’d also want.

    I agree, just because we’re safe now doesn’t make this program right at all.

  12. zukiru says:

    “There was no one left to speak for me.”

    still not too happy about this but they will be hard pressed to give out money for an model XT, seeing as they all get great milage

    Starion owners may be seeing a rise in value here though.

    (the question of it all is if you have some of what you want then as they are crushed won’t values go up some? unless having hard to get parts kills the value too much)

  13. Jacbo says:

    It sure seems like it would take a lot more energy, petroleum (mostly plastic), and metal to produce a brand new car, then would be saved driving a car that gets 4 mpg better. Factor in the fact that for a 25 year old car to still be on the road today, it was probably not driven much in the first place. The US is a throwaway society, if anything the government should give $4500 to anyone who drives a car older than 20 years old to keep it on the road and driveable…. then again this would most likely put our economy to bed for good!

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