“This is real money,” Champion Ford owner Reggie Robinson said. “It’s not a trade allowance - this is a real $3,500. It’s an excellent opportunity to maximize a trade-in worth $500 to $1,000, and get a newer car with better fuel efficiency.”
If ever the name of a government program sounded like a sales promotion, it’s Washington’s Car Allowance Rebate System, or Cash For Clunkers as it’s called by the citizenry.
Basically, this is a $1 billion effort that runs through Nov. 1 or until the funds are exhausted. It allows consumers to receive a $3,500 to $4,500 discount when they trade in a car or truck that, generally speaking, gets 18 miles per gallon or less and the customer buys or leases a more environmentally-friendly vehicle that gets at least 22 miles per gallon.
The premise is to stimulate the auto industry, and the economy as a whole, by selling cars, trucks and vans, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the country.
But as with all sales promotions, politically-motivated or not, there are some stipulations and qualifying conditions, or fine print.
First, the trade-in must be less than 25 years old, and meet the fuel-efficiency standards.
It must also have been registered in your name and had valid insurance on it continuously for at least one year, and there cannot be any liens on the title.
In addition to the subsidized discount, the trade-in vehicle is required to be scrapped, and the scrap value will also be applied as a discount to the sticker price.
The trade-in’s fuel economy has to be around 18 miles per gallon or less, though there are different guidelines applied to different makes, like trucks and vans.
There is no voucher required, participating dealers will automatically knock the proper amount off the price of the new car or truck.
The process to find out if you qualify is not a small task, though, Griffin Chrysler Dodge Jeep owner Mike Griffin said.
“It’s being received pretty well, but nobody really knows what to expect until they come in,” Griffin said. “Really and truly, it’s almost better if they do come in and sit down with us, so we can look at things like what size engine you have in your car and what the fuel-efficiency is by (Environmental Protection Agency) standards. Then, we can determine if they’ll qualify for the $3,500 or the $4,500.”
He said that between the Chryslers, Dodges, Jeeps, Suzukis and Toyotas his two Hamlet dealerships carry, there are plenty of fuel-efficient cars for sale.
“That’s the easy part, getting our cars to qualify, the more difficult thing is determining whether their car qualifies,” he said.
Dieffenbach GM Superstore owner Jeff Dieffenbach said his dealership had already accepted several trade-ins under the program, and there was anywhere from 10 to 20 customers who were seriously considering it.
“It’s a huge opportunity for our customers,” he said. “This is a substantial amount of money we’re talking about, and (General Motors) actually has 74 models that qualify. That’s more models than any other manufacturer.”
Robinson pointed out that there were already rebates on Ford vehicles, making this the time to buy a new car if ever.
He said at Champion, the bulk of interest has been directed at the Fusion, Focus and Ranger models.
“People are looking at the smaller cars,” he said. “The best part about this is this discount goes along with the $5,000 manufacturer rebates, so you could end up saving $9,000 or $10,000 on a new car.”
Manufacturers are getting behind the program as well.
Chrysler announced it will offer a matching incentive of $4,500 on most of its new Chrysler and Jeep models, but this incentive will be available to individuals whether they participate in the Cash for Clunkers program.
Kelley Blue Book, the most popular appraisal source for new and used automobiles, has also added a “Cash For Clunker Calculator” to its website to give individuals an idea of whether their vehicle qualifies. It can be found at www.kbb.com.
More than 10 percent of the money allocated to the government’s “Cash for Clunkers” program has already been doled out, according to the Detroit News.