How to Get the Most Out of Your 'Clunker'

Time offers tips for buyers considering CARS
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 10, 2009 5:38 PM CDT
Vehicles traded in as part of the government's "cash for clunkers" program are parked at the Aadlen Bros. Auto Wrecking junkyard lot before being disposed of in Sun Valley, Calif.    (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, file)
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(Newser) – Cash for Clunkers has become a smashing success—but is it right for you? Time explains how to get the most out of your clunker:

  • First, make sure your vehicle really is a “clunker”: Cars that get more than 18 mpg, don't run, haven't been registered and insured over the last year, or are more than 25 years old don’t qualify.

  • Fuel economy determines how much of a rebate you’ll get. If the difference between your old and new car’s gas mileage is less than 10 mpg, you only get $3,500, not $4,500—though for SUVs, you’ll get the full credit with a 5 mpg difference.
  • Look for other incentives that can be combined with your rebate. Depressed sales have manufacturers offering a lot of incentives. Ford, for example, will tack on $1,500 plus another $500 for financing through Ford Motor Credit.
  • Be prepared to wait for your vehicle of choice. Hybrid popularity has depleted Toyota dealerships’ stock of the 2010 Prius, while factory closures mean lower inventories of other popular models.