Cash for Clunkers -- Clunk You (Editorial)
It seems like I can’t go five seconds on a news site or news program without having to hear about the Cash For Clunkers program and honestly I’m sick of the program already.
I understand the concept of it, the government is giving an incentive for people to trade in their gas guzzling SUV’s for a newer, more fuel efficient car. The purpose being to try and ween ourselves off foreign oil. The concept I applaud, the method I question Overall it seems pretty simple, but there are the technicalities.
Probably the number one gripe I get is that peoples’ cars aren’t qualifying -- the following is a report from WCPO’s John Materese here in Cincinnati:
“From the dent on the door ...to the squeak in the hinges....to the 120,000 miles on the odometer, Tony Edward's car would appear to be the definition of a "clunker."
He says "It has squeaking doors, windows that barely go up and down, no radio, and barely any a/c." So Tony was thrilled to learn of the Cash for Clunkers program...With hopes of trading in his old Plymouth Sundance for $4,500. He says he'd be lucky to get $500 for it in a sale.”
The report goes on to say that since his “clunker” gets more than the 18 mpg cap for the program, he doesn’t qualify. I’m saying he doesn’t qualify for it because he doesn’t drive a clunker. He drives a piece of crap, there is a difference. A dent in a squeaky door doesn’t make it a clunker, if it was missing a catalytic converter and the engine knocked and an the tires were bald, then MAYBE.
The Sundance is a compact car and not part of the problem. If he drove a Ford Explorer that is designed to cross artic tundra while carrying 16 penguins in the back and a toboggan on the roof then I’d listen but just because you don’t like the piece of crap you drive does not mean you are entitled to $4500.
And the phrase “A/C that barely works” pisses me off… at least it works.
I bought a 2001 Chevy Cavalier with 136000 miles on it. Clunker? No. Piece of crap? Yes. Gets me from Point A to Point B? Yes.
That’s all I need.
The gas tank has a slight leak, the exhaust is rusted out, the check engine light is on, the tires were rotted, and the battery was practically dead. It’s a two door car… black interior, black exterior, and tinted windows -- and not only does the A/C not work, the passenger window doesn’t open and is duct taped shut. I sweat more in this thing than I do on my bike. Maybe I should consider getting a new car but this piece of crap gets 33.5 mpg and only cost me a hundred bucks.
Secondly, If you are driving a crappy car obviously you would not want to take on a new car with full coverage insurance -- yeah, you’d be saving some money upfront -- but factoring the fact that you’re uninformed and the car dealer will most likely rip you off, you’ll have to pay interest on the car payment, and the full coverage insurance, and the registration fees -- may it’s not such a good deal after all. All this, and I haven’t even factored in depreciation. But hey, you got $4500 off.
I had my Taurus a few months ago and I was in a similar boat -- I had a near dead car and I thought about using the Cash For Clunkers program but then I realized the cheapest car on the market right now is around $15000. So I’d have to spend $11500-ish net payout to get a $4500 incentive. I’m sorry, but my frugal mind won’t allow me to something that stupid. I also later found out that my Taurus wouldn’t have qualified either -- EPA estimate of 19 mpg so I would have been SOL.
I sold it for $600 and pocketed that money and went car free for a bit. Then I was able to replace it with a another car in better shape for $100. That makes more financial sense. But I will admit I got lucky.
Furthermore, the purpose of the program is to reduce oil consumption. It is not to help people buy cars, especially cars they can’t afford. The government bought enough cars a few months ago when they bought General Motors, and we all know how well that’s been turning out. From now on I refer to General Motors as “Public Transportation.”
Another gripe I hear is that people are complaining that the only car you can buy with the program is a “tiny roller skate with a go-kart engine.” Again, the point of this is to save oil, it is not to reward you for buying an oversized piece of crap.
I could spend a long long time talking about how much I hate SUV’s, but I will spare the boredom.
Those around me know how I feel about the way people feel about their cars. When we were moving out of our apartment our neighbor, who in two years of living next to us never said “Hello” even in passing, all the sudden wanted to talk to me. He accused us of putting a dent in his brand new car with our car door (on a night we weren‘t even there). He brought me out while telling me he was calling his insurance company and he had our license plate number written down. He proceed to point out a smudge. Not a knick. Not a dent. A SMUDGE. Spit. Wipe. Gone. I told him to get lost. He said to me “I paid a lot of money for that car.” and I replied “Then you paid too much.” It’s not my problem that he validates his self esteem through a vehicle purchase. He said we’d be hearing from his insurance company. I’m still waiting to hear from them. I’m just wondering how hard the claims adjuster laughed when they saw his ‘damage.’
Maybe now he’s trying to trade it in as a clunker.
Overall, the only people who truly can benefit from this program are rich people who can afford a new car that years ago bought “super-sized” vehicles because that what the car companies pushed on them. And in many cases those are the only vehicles that will fit their “super-sized” asses when they go to Wal-Mart to buy a 2 gallon container of Cheesy Poofs and an American Flag (made in China) to show their patriotism.
My biggest beef about the program is that it doesn’t address the main issue directly -- our transportation habits. Yes, it would overall reduce the high polluting and gas hogs but it does nothing to put the idea in mind for other forms of transportation. I would love to have traded in my Taurus for a top-of-the-line road bike to get to work more efficiently. The only oil it needs is on the chain. Or how about trading in your clunker and getting free mass transit for a couple years? Maybe that would have been a better program… and could have put some people back to work.