The 'cash for clunkers' rules

Not everyone will qualify for stimulus incentives to trade in old gas guzzlers for more efficient new cars.

Even if you love your old gas guzzler, said Joe Taschler in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, now might be the time to say good-bye. The "cash for clunkers" rules are scheduled to take effect on Friday. The chance to get at least $3,500 to trade in an old vehicle for a new, more efficient one is "generating considerable buzz among consumers, car dealers, and auto industry watchers."

"Critics say that all of the moving parts of the Obama stimulus plan are barely moving at all," said Linda Stern in Newsweek. But that's not the case with the $1 billion "cash for clunkers" stimulus. "Blink and you might miss" it. "Some hungry dealers have jumped the gun and started offering cash for old gas guzzlers earlier in the month," but the program officially was scheduled to begin July 24 and run for three months.

Here's how the "cash for clunkers" rules work, said Warren Wise in the Charleston, S.C., Post and Courier. "For qualifying vehicles, buyers will get a $3,500 credit for a new car that gets at least 4 mpg more than the trade-in. The credit rises to $4,500 if the new vehicle has a combined fuel economy value that is at least 10 mpg higher than the trade-in vehicle." If it works, nearly 250,000 new vehicles will be on the road when the program expires Nov. 1, and "an equal number of road-weary cars will go to the scrap heap."

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That's optimistic, said Robert Samuelson in The Washington Post. The "cash for clunkers" stimulus is "stunted." Macroeconomic Advisers estimates it "might advance a mere 130,000 vehicle sales," which is a far cry from what the Obama administration has promised.

The trouble is that many people who think they can collect tax breaks for their jalopy won't qualify, said Nick Gillespie in Reason. Check for yourself to see if your car qualifies under the "cash for clunkers" rules. The idea behind this program was to reduce pollution from old gas guzzlers while boosting car sales and the economy—instead we'll get another example of the "ineptitude of government."

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