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Clunker Rebate

Clunker Rebate

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At the beginning of the month, President Barack Obama signed the Car Allowance Rebate System, or the "Cash for Clunkers" legislation, into law.And tomorrow dealerships nationwide will receive the official guidelines on how to participate in the federal program, an incentive that gives car buyers a $3,500 or $4,500 break on their new ride, provided they trade in their old gas guzzler for a brand-new, more fuel-efficient vehicle.But some dealers who were eager to offer the program to their customers have begun giving the discounts already.Lawmakers intended the program to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions created by burning gas or diesel fuel.And while National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials hope that decreasing the number of low-fuel-economy cars and trucks on the road will benefit the environment, dealers who have struggled to sell the cars on their lots also hope the rebates will urge more customers to go shopping.As some local dealers wait to get the details on how to register their businesses to participate in the program, others have gone ahead and credited new car buyers with the $3,500 or $4,500 discounts, assuming the government will rebate that money to their dealerships later.Annapolis Hyundai on West Street has offered the discounts since the beginning of the month, said Mike Mayfield, the business' sales manager.

He said the buzz created by the credit has already helped the dealership."People are going to take advantage of it," he said.

"We've already sold four or five cars this month with it."Vince Sheehy of Sheehy Auto Stores said his business has taken deposits on vehicles since the beginning of the month and put "sold" signs in the windshields.

Already he has about 100 customers lined up to participate in the clunker program.Sheehy said about 60 percent of his inventory is eligible for the program, including some sport-utility vehicle and pickup truck models.Ten of the vehicles on hold and ready to roll off the lot are at Sheehy Nissan of Annapolis; two of them will be going to members of Kimberly Madore's family.Madore is helping her 26-year-old son, currently overseas, trade in his old 1999 Isuzu Rodeo, which gets 16 miles per gallon, for a new Nissan Versa, which will get about 30 mpg.Madore also has helped her mother trade in her old Cadillac for a new Nissan Rogue.She said both of the trade-ins are older and unreliable."I was on the edge of my seat waiting to get the phone call that one of them had broken down on the side of the road somewhere," Madore said.And though she said both her mother and son have felt the pinch of the economy, the incentive program was hard to pass up."It's hard to walk away from that when you know your car has such little value on it," she said.Figuring in the clunker rebate, Madore said her son's new car will come to about $10,000.But critics have said the incentive won't do much to rev up car sales in a recession.

Although many frustrated motorists may kick their tires and call their vehicles "clunkers," if they believe their cars should be valued higher than $3,500 or $4,500, the program may not be worthwhile.According to the law, the trade-in vehicle must be destroyed, so dealers won't likely give customers more than the scrap value for their old car.The law defines a clunker car as a trade-in vehicle that gets 18 mpg or less.

And the new car, which cannot be a used vehicle, must get 22 mpg or more.

Car owners can find out how many miles per gallon their vehicle gets by visiting the Web site at Kitzmiller, president of the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association, said the program will let those who can afford to go car shopping right now save a little extra money.

But he acknowledges that the program probably won't get people to buy cars if they are facing really hard financial times.These days most car buyers across Maryland are buying vehicles used, not brand-new.

Last month, only 24,500 cars - or 30 percent of all car purchases in Maryland - were new vehicles, according to the state Motor Vehicle Administration.

That's down 7 percent from the new car purchases in the same month last year."Certainly anything that incentivizes people to buy a new car right now is good for the industry," Kitzmiller said.

"But it's only going to help certain consumers.

It's a pretty narrow group of people that this applies to."But environmental protection policy advocates, such as Tommy Landers of Environment Maryland, believe the important thing to keep in mind is the national commitment to decreasing the carbon footprint.

Landers said the goal is to bring the average automobile fuel economy up to 35 mpg by 2016."And there are definitely cars out there that can get that right now, so I would tell (car buyers) to aim for the sky," Landers said.

"If we had committed to this a long time ago like other countries have, we could already have a better environment."---DO YOU HAVE A CLUNKER?New car buyers who want to participate in the federal 'Cash for Clunkers' program don't need to register or have special vouchers to get the credit toward their new car purchase.

However, buyers should bring the following items to the dealership to qualify:• One year's proof of insurance.

Contact your insurance company to get evidence.

The form must include the insurance company name, the policy number, VIN, and start and end date of coverage.• At least one year's proof of registration.

Contact the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration to get copies.• The clunker's title, free of any liens.The trade-in vehicle must be in drivable condition and in the buyer's own name.

The car or truck manufacturer date found on the driver's door or doorjamb also must be less than 25 years old.

Visit, the official Web site dedicated to the program, to find registered dealers and answers to frequently asked questions.
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