Clunkers for Cash Program Gets Underway

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

Update – July 31: As of today the Cash for Clunkers Program has been so unexpectedly successful that 250,000 cars have been sold. Result: the program has run out of money, and the New York Times reports that the Transportation Department told dealers to stop taking new applications. But today (Friday) the House added $2 billion to the original $1 billion level. The Senate has not yet voted on it, but government officials said the program will continue running at least through this weekend.
July 27 – The program to take gas-guzzling cars off the road while stimulating new car purchases was so successful in Europe that it is now in place in the good old U.S. The law was signed by President Obama in late June and went into effect on July 27, after the resulting regulations were published in the Federal Register on July 24.

Dubbed CARS by the government, The CAR Allowance Rebate System is a $1 billion government program that helps consumers buy or lease a more environmentally-friendly vehicle from a participating dealer when they trade in a less fuel-efficient car or truck. The program is designed to energize the economy; boost auto sales and put safer, cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles on the nation’s roadways.

Consumers will be able to take advantage of this program and receive a $3,500 or $4,500 discount from the car dealer when they trade in their old vehicle and purchase or lease a new one. Consumers you do not need to register anywhere or at anytime for this program. However, to find out eligibility requirements click here.

If you are a retiree or have a family member considering taking advantage of the program, here is a link to the government’s FAQs about the program.   Or call CARS Hotline at (866)-CAR-7891 (note, the hotline was overwhelmed when we called it today).

Pop Quiz: One question we can’t find the answer to – if you trade in an eligible truck but purchase a more efficient car in its place, are you eligible? If anyone knows the answer, please post in the Comments below.

Posted by John Brady on July 27th, 2009


  1. The European program was quite successful, in part because it offered a significantly higher cash benefit. Almost twice as much, I believe.

    by rob earl — July 28, 2009

  2. As with most government programs, the success of the “cash for clunkers” program is not measured in how well the consequences of the program align with the stated goals of its advocates. Nor is it measured by any economic impacts the consequences might cause. Instead, just like the example of the public library in George Dance’s recent article about Booze and books, the success is measured by participation or usage, not by any measure of the value provides or harm it does to our economy. The trick is to define the program specifically so that it has a known demand so the usage is high. Media spin and politics will make sure the right people hear the program was successful and beneficial. I heard a bit on NPR just today about the downstream benefits that recycling all these old cars has. Ridiculous of course, but the perception amongst the voters is far more important than the actual results and consequences. Certainly there will be follow-on programs, cash for major appliances, cash for tools, etc.

    by William — August 6, 2009

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