‘Cash for Clunkers’ gets rolling

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Monday, July 27, kicked off the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), a buyer incentive program commonly referred to as “Cash for Clunkers” designed to help consumers purchase new fuel-efficient vehicles and boost the economy at the same time. The federal program gives buyers up to $4,500 toward a new, more environmentally-friendly vehicle when they trade-in their old gas-guzzling cars or trucks.

“With this program, we are giving the auto industry a shot in the arm, and struggling consumers can get rid of their gas-guzzlers and buy a more reliable fuel-efficient vehicle,” LaHood says. “This is good news for our economy, the environment and consumers’ pocketbooks.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also released the final eligibility requirements to participate in the program. Under the CARS program, consumers receive a $3,500 or $4,500 discount from a car dealer when they trade-in their old vehicle and purchase or lease a new qualifying vehicle. In order to be eligible for the program, the trade-in passenger vehicle must:

  • Be manufactured less than 25 years before the date it is traded-in;
  • Have a combined city/highway fuel economy of 18 miles per gallon or less;
  • Be in drivable condition; and
  • Be continuously insured and registered to the same owner for the full year before the trade-in.
  • Transactions must be made between now and Nov. 1 or until the money runs out. The vehicle that is traded-in will be scrapped. NHTSA estimates the program could take about 250,000 vehicles that are not fuel-efficient off the road.

    In the coming days, NHTSA will launch an all-out effort to raise public awareness about this program. On Monday, July 27, NHTSA held a webinar with dealers from across the country to explain the program and make sure the process is as user-friendly as possible. Dealers and interested participants are encouraged to visit the official website, www.cars.gov, for more information. In addition, NHTSA has established a toll-free hotline that consumers can call to get information on the program, 866-CAR-7891. In early August, NHTSA will launch a national television and Internet advertising campaign to further educate the public about CARS. Consumers are reminded that they do not need to register for the program in order to participate.