Monday, June 22, 2009

Want a new fuel-efficient car?

My goodness we had some rain Friday into the weekend. My unofficial rain gauge registered 4.13 inches between Thursday night and Saturday morning. Since then it says we’ve gotten another .13 inches. That’s a whopping four and a quarter inches this weekend. It’s not very high on my “great weekend” list. And it’s just the beginning. We can expect some rain or showers or drizzle virtually daily, nights, too, right into next weekend.

All that weather makes for a very uncomfortable time for an Old Bull Gator with a chunk of steel in his hip and several fusing vertebrae. We’ll manage as always, but I honestly am not looking forward to my workout sessions Tuesday and Thursday.

Every time we get to see the opening ceremonies at NASCAR events, we get to see some pretty expensive and nifty United States aircraft fly over as the National Anthem is sung. I love the spectacle as we should be honoring our fighting men and women the world over. But I often wonder just how much it costs NASCAR for those flyovers.

That brings us to today’s topic, although it has absolutely nothing to do with NASCAR. It is the “Clunkers for Cash” program that is now awaiting President Obama’s signature. The program passed Congress as part of the war funding bill. Don’t ask. I have absolutely no idea what paying people to trade their cars has to do with wars. I do know it’s going to cost us a billion dollars we don’t have.

Simply speaking, the program is designed to get Americans with older, non-efficient automobiles, pickup trucks and bigger trucks off the roads and then get those Americans into more fuel efficient vehicles.

Consumers will get up to $4500 reduction in the price of a new car under certain conditions. Note that not everyone trying to trade a ‘clunker’ will get that much. There are conditions. Furthermore, if you accept the up to $4500 toward your new car, the dealer must dispose of your trade-in by junking it, shredding it, crushing it, etc. Therefore, you most likely will not get any additional trade-in allowance.

Only people with cars that are worth less than $4500 will make that trade. The car being traded must have been in the owner’s possession for at least a year, registered to go on the highway, and in use. You cannot find a good deal on a junked car one day and get your rebate the next.

Both Gator Wife and I drive older cars. Hers is a 2001 and mine, a 2000. We wouldn’t be able to take advantage of that new law for two reasons. First, hers already gets about 19 mpg around town, more on the highway, and mine gets in the low 20s, and I’ve gotten as much as 36 on the highway. The clunkers can get no more than 18 mpg combine city and highway.

Second, both our cars are “Blue Booked” at more than the $4500 for trade-in right now. We would be rather foolish to take that loss by participating in this program, even if we could.

Another qualification for the top dollar is the new car must average 22 mpg. But if the trade-in averages more less than the new one, then a buyer could qualify for a $3500 break. The new car must be worth no more than $45,000.

There are slightly different rules that cover SUVs, minivans, and light truck and your dealer can tell you if you qualify.

Once the billion dollars is gone, the program is gone. You, incidentally, will not see the money as it will be electronically transferred to the dealer.

The goal, of course, is to get more people into smaller, fuel efficient “green” cars. My guess is that it won’t run out of money. With the economy the way it is, people driving those old gas guzzlers may realize they simply might not be able to make payments on a new car or they probably would already have one.


No comments: