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You Might Own a Clunker-How to Identify a Clunker

Updated on April 6, 2019

To all you cars out there, hoping to serve a final useful purpose before meeting that scrap metal heap on the edge of town, it is my sad duty to inform you your days as a buying incentive and thousand dollar bonus baby may be over before they began. To the owners of these beauties, who thought like we did, that a new car was just around the economic corner, think again, because as is often the case with governmental packages, there are catches to the cash for cars stimulus program AKA CARS

How do you know if your car is a clunker? Try to illicit honest answers from your car, to the following questions:

You Might Be A Clunker . . . . .

  1. Was your car born between the years of 1984-2000 but is still unable to count past the number 24? Then you might own a clunker.
  2. If you have a car that considers itself fully operational just because its registration and insurance have been in force for the last year leading up to the trade-in Then it might be a clunker.
  3. When your car takes itself for a spin, does it brag that it still gets 18 miles to the gallon even though it is 24 years old? Well then your car is a clunker.

The Clunker - It's Not Your Father's Car

It seemed like such a win/win situation when the CARS program was first proposed. Over in Europe there was great success, old cars were scrapped, the economy was stimulated, folks got to purchase newer cars. Car dealerships and manufacturers alike salivating over all the potential opportunities for increased revenue and profits. Surely it would be the same for everyone concerned here in the U.S. wouldn't it? It seemed a realistic expectation to have.

Then came the buts How could we forget about the buts, they are always there, by now we should have known they would closely follow the official unveiling of the program.

For example, you can trade in your car BUT you have to buy a brand new car, not just a newer car.

You can get that new car and receive 3-4.5 thousands of dollars in savings BUT your trade-in has to be fully insured and registered for the entire year prior to the new car purchase.

So saving that car that wasn't running, or for some other reason didn't get insured or registered, turns out to be a decision that cost thousands of dollars as far as the CARS program is concerned. Which was more costly, the money to insure and register a car not being used, or the stimulus sum lost by not doing so?

The final "but" is the knowledge that your car may be one of the few that gets better than 18 miles per gallon.

So, you can get that brand new car with the subsidy, BUT only if your slightly older car falls below the guidelines set up by the government. If your year 2000 car happens to get say 20 mpg, is it disqualified? With few exceptions it probably is.

There, my friends, you have it. The CARS program with all the buts included. Can you still get that car? I hope you can because we no longer qualify.

When It All Begins - Officially

Beginning July 25-27, 2009 you can begin making deals and receiving vouchers for your trade-ins. The dealers have to be authorized so make sure you ask, perhaps get proof when possible.

An update to this section involves the amount of time the program will continue. Right now, approval is pending to keep the program running up to Labor Day

As to show their all-inclusiveness, car dealers have expressed their willingness to offer good deals and incentives to those of us who don't have a government approved clunker to trade. Therefore come one, come all and get that car you need or want, regardless.

Since we chose to save our unemployment check for necessities and did not keep a car insured and registered that we did not need, we have forever lost out on the vouchers. We will have to purchase our car the old-fashioned way now. Not nearly as exciting, but I suppose totally achievable, given we have no choice.

Our poor clunker, a 1996 Ford Crown Victoria, could be fixed up I suppose. But we find ourselves wanting a more fuel efficient car, with a driver's side door that has not loss its ability to adhere to the door. We've grown spoiled in that way. Trying to close a door that operates all the windows of the car and yet is virtually hanging by a thread, means it is time for a change.

We could just replace the door from a salvage yard and then repaint it to match the car's color. Seems like a lot to do for a car so past its prime. It's been a good and loyal companion, but it has more than served its usefulness and we think it is better to let it rest in peace, or pieces, as a demolished car does best. So we, and when I say we I really mean HE, will have to weed out the few honest car dealers from the over abundance of crooked car dealers, and find the best fit for us in the newer automobile market. Between now and November we hope to work a deal we will be proud of and be a two car family once more.

Whichever way you go in your pursuit for that next car, don't forget to take your time and investigate and research, then check the car out thoroughly, since many of them may have been sitting on lots for quite a spell.

Oh and last but not least, remember if a deal sounds to good to be true, it probably is . . . a cloned car.

Off and Running

The CARS stimulus program is off and running now. Dealerships have specific models they are offering, You can find out from the dealership. Not every new car will qualify.

Don't forget you are still entitled to the dealership incentives as well. Come prepared with the knowledge of what the dealership is offering so that no one cheats you out of some of your deductions.

Also the CARS program will run until September 7, after receiving further funding from the government. 

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