Cash for Clunkers: Many Getting Left Out

According to the government, not a clunker

According to the government, not a clunker

A lot of people are confused about the government’s new Cash for Clunkers plan… including my grandpa, who is otherwise a really smart guy.

He’s one of those guys, though, who tends to hear only what interests him, so I wasn’t too surprised when he came over (he doesn’t like the phone) and said, “So I was listening to Fox News, and they said I could get $4,500 for an old clunker. How do I do that?”

“Well,” I said, “there’s a lot more to it than that… not every clunker qualifies, and for the ones that do, you have to put the $4,500 towards a brand-new car that gets much better fuel economy. You don’t just get $4,500.”

He was cool with that, so I told him I’d find out if his cars qualify. Here’s what he has:

A 1985 Honda Accord that runs fine but has about 200,000 miles on it, and a 1970 Oldsmobile Toronado that is the true definition of “clunker.” It doesn’t run, and I’m pretty sure it hasn’t since 1973.

His Accord meets the first qualification: The car can’t be any earlier than a 1985 model. Close call. The second qualification is the killer, though – that Accord is rated at 24 miles per gallon, even though his actual car returns numbers that aren’t even close to that. Strike one.

The Olds? Well… it’s too old. It’s easily the kind of car that should be taken off the planet, but I guess it’s too much of a clunker to be considered a clunker by the government.

So, gramps doesn’t get the $4,500 on either car. He’s not going to sell them for anywhere near that price, either, so I made another recommendation: Donate them and take the tax deduction.

Car donation programs are everywhere. Most will come pick up your car and let you write off whatever they sell it for. My local program cooperates with the IRS by offering a $500 minimum deduction, even if they just part the car out. Seems to me like a much better way to put some extra cash in the pocketbook come April 15 while helping out worthy causes along the way.

Cash for Clunkers is a joke… car donation is the way to go.

Have you ever donated a car? Would you consider it?



  1. What the government should have done is give anyone buying a vehicle that gets more than an average of 25 MPG a nice rebate on their taxes. That would both increase sales of fuel-efficient cars, and get older cars off the road as the clunkers fell down even farther through the food chain and many were scrapped or donated. Once again they showed that they will mess up even the best of intentions with really bizarre methods of trying to alter people’s behavior. And what will the environmental price for tens of thousands of clunkers going into the recycle bin at the same time when there is oversupply and lack of demand?

  2. Cash for clunkers is a slap in the face to anyone attempting to save the environment before it was the flavor of the day. I have done my best for conserve resources my entire adult life (49yrs old). I have always purchased vehicles with the smallest engine possible to accomplish the task needed which makes none of them qualify for this program. Of the 3 vehicle I own, the newest one is 11 years old and has 165,000 miles but they originally all got better mileage than the program requirements. So instead of being rewarded for our responsibility, we get nothing but the dissatisfaction of paying for everyone else’s irresponsibility.

  3. This is a great article on the Cash for Clunkers program and is spot on about the limitations of the program and the alternatives if you don’t qualify.

  4. You are right. Not only will most cars not be eligible because they get more than 18mpg, but the vehicle has to run. You can donate car to charity even if it doesn’t run.

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