Local News

Figure out how to get cash for your clunker

Posted July 16, 2009 4:18 p.m. EDT
Updated July 16, 2009 8:46 p.m. EDT

— Triangle auto shoppers need to read the fine print when using a federal stimulus program that gives cash back to buyers who replace an older vehicle with a fuel-efficient one.

Susan Gilette said she looks forward to using the Cash for Clunkers program – officially known as the Car Allowance Rebate System – to replace her 16-year-old car.

"It's a domestic car, and it doesn't have the ability to last 146,000 miles, which is what it has on it now," Gilette said.

The Cash for Clunkers program is designed to take such vehicles off the road. If the owners of clunkers trade them in, the government will provide a $3,500 to $4,500 subsidy for the purchase of a more fuel-efficient car.

"The average car on the road today is about eight years old. You've got a lot of people out there driving cars that don't get great fuel economy," said Bill Shotwell, general manager of the Saturn of Raleigh dealership.

However, the program has a lot of restrictions.

"You may or may not qualify, and you need to make sure whether that is the best deal for you when you go in," state Attorney General Roy Cooper said.

  • The car you buy or lease must be new and cost less than $45,000.
  • Your trade-in must be drivable, and you must have owned it for at least a year.
  • The trade-in must also get less than 18 miles-per-gallon fuel economy, figured from the combined fuel-efficiency rates for highway and city driving.

The last restriction means that most small passenger cars won't qualify. Chances are that an older truck of SUV will.

Some popular new cars to get with the Cash for Clunkers programs are the Saturn Astra, Ford Fusion and Honda CRV. All the clunkers traded in under the program are junked.

Dealer incentives, plus the federal subsidy, make for some great buys right now, Shotwell said.

"In some cases, on some of our cars, with all the incentives you're getting close to 40 percent off on the MSRP," Shotwell said. "So it's pretty good deals right now."

The program doesn't start for two weeks, but many dealers are already taking orders under it.

The government offer will last until Nov. 1 or until the $1 billion in funding runs out.

"Our anticipation is (that) end of summer, first of September, all the money will be gone," Shotwell said.

Get information on the Cash for Clunkers program, and find out if your vehicle qualifies for it.