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Cash for Clunkers

The “Cash for Clunkers" program (formally known as the CARS Allowance Rebate System, or simply CARS), was designed to encourage drivers to trade in their old, gas-guzzling vehicles for cash to purchase new, more fuel-efficient models. Although the program officially ended in 2009, there are still ways drivers can get cash for junk cars.

CARS Program Timeline

The CARS Allowance Rebate System (CARS, or “Cash for Clunkers") began in July 2009 and was scheduled to run through November 1, 2009, but reportedly ended in August 2009, once funds were exhausted.

Finding Current Cash for Junk Cars Programs

Although the CARS program is currently over, car owners still can find ways to turn their junk cars into cash.

For example, many cities and local car dealerships offer similar car retirement programs and pay money for recycling vehicles. Generally, all it takes is a quick Internet search or browse through the phone book to find similar car recycling programs. Additionally, many dealerships run advertisements for such “cash for junk cars" programs, often offering rebates or similar incentives for buyers who trade in their junk cars for newer models.

About the CARS Program

Simply put, the CARS program was a billion-dollar incentive for drivers across the nation to scrap their junk cars and purchase new, more fuel-efficient vehicles. The primary goals of the program was to:

  • Get environmentally unfriendly cars off the road.
  • Boost the economy by promoting car sales.

Once the vehicle met the eligibility requirements, the vehicle was surrendered for scrap and the dealer submitted an application for credit at the time of the new vehicle purchase. The dealer would disclose an estimate of the scrap value, and that estimate was in addition to any rebate—NOT in place of a rebate.

Cash for Clunkers Eligibility

Only certain vehicles and situations were eligible for the Cash for Clunkers program.

The vehicle must have:

  • Been fewer than 25 years old.
  • Averaged less than 18 MPG (though some large trucks and cargo vans had different requirements).
  • Been registered and insured for at least one year preceding the trade.

Also, owners must have used the trade-in to purchase or lease a new vehicle.

Results of Cash for Clunkers

Once CARS had ended, many debated on whether or not the program was successful. While Cash for Clunkers certainly did succeed in its goals, critics are quick to point out that it came at a great cost (several billions of dollars) to taxpayers.

Alternatives to CARS

As mentioned above, drivers can find similar vehicle retirement programs offered by their cities or local area dealerships; however, there are additional car recycling methods.

For example, owners might consider selling their vehicles to junkyards. These establishments buy junk cars for parts, or scrap them for recycling at other establishments such as steel mills.

Of course, if your vehicle is still in good working condition and you aren't necessarily looking for cash, you might consider donating your car. For more information about this process, visit our section on Car Donation.

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