How Much Government Cash Can You Get for a Clunker?

When President Obama signs the "cash for clunkers" bill approved by the Senate yesterday,a database will go into effect allowing low-gas-mileage car owners to calculate how much they can get for trading in their fuel-thirsty vehicles.

According to the Daily Breeze, a clunker is officially defined as any car made from 1984 onward that gets a combined street/highway mileage of 18 mpg or under. There seem to be two classes of vehicle targeted here -- the ancient Country Squire station wagons you hear shuddering down the street or burly SUVs that all but need to be umbilicaled to a gas pump.

Associated Press reports that eligible car owners could receive a $3,500 voucher to be used to purchase a new car that gets at least 22 mpg -- or $4,500 if the new car gets 10 mpg more than the clunker. For SUV, van or pickup owners, that $3,500 voucher jumps to $4,500 if the new, similar vehicle gets at least 5 mpg than the old one. The program is good from July through November.

The Daily Breeze piece links to a searchable database that

matches car models to eligibility. For example, my old 1993 Nissan

Pathfinder SUV with 4WD and a combined street/highway rating of 15 mpg,

definitely qualifies for a voucher that is worth more than what I

unloaded the car for four years ago. Not everyone is sold on the new

program, however.

Under the headline, "Don't Count on Cash for Clunkers," a Kiplinger.com

report claims that "few cars qualify, unless they have large engines

and are meant to go very fast. SUVs and trucks are the real culprits,

so the plan is skewed heavily in their favor--and benefits the Detroit

automakers who sold a lot of SUVs and trucks." The report also points

out that clunker owners can in many cases receive more money for their

vehicles by selling them.

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