New York Times contributor blogs about cars and other interesting ways of getting around.
Cash for clunkers: How it works
NOW THAT'S A CLUNKER: The Mercury Grand Marquis is a prime example. (Photo: superterrific/Flickr)
- The trade-in can’t be more than 25 years old;
- You have to use the rebate for a new vehicle, but you can lease instead of purchase;
- The car has to have been registered and insured in your name continuously for a year before you make the trade. You can’t buy a $50 car and make $4,450 from it;
- Your old car will definitely get squashed — the program requires the engine and transmission to be disabled. The upside is that you get the scrappage fee, minus $50 for the dealer.
- Apply early. Judging by the considerable public interest — just look at some of the Internet postings about the program, many of them inaccurate. The program could run don’t need. No advance paperwork is required before the deal is signed, sealed and delivered.
- Go for the larger rebate. There’s a wealth of great cars out there that get at least 30 mpg on the highway, and some of them are very affordable. Trust me on this: Gas prices are going to go up again.
If Cash for Clunkers is a roaring success, Congress could put more money in and extend the deadlines, but the small size dictates it’s unlikely to be as stimulating as, say, Germany’s program, which caused a 40 percent rise in new car sales. So, as we said in the 60s, seize the time and crush that clunker now.
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