What Is Cash for Clunkers

Dec 08, 2023 By Triston Martin

The Car Allowance Rebate System, also called "Cash for Clunkers," was a U.S. government program that intended to replace older low-MPG cars with more efficient models to help reduce the amount of pollution in the air and encourage spending. Under President Obama's administration, the program started on July 1st, 2009. The program allowed eligible people to receive $3,500 or $4,500 to buy a more modern and efficient vehicle. To be eligible, you must exchange your old vehicle and take out a five-year contract for a newer vehicle, truck, van, or SUV. The program started by providing $1 billion of funds but quickly was exhausted due to its popularity of the program. Congress swiftly allocated $2 billion to the program, which was then extended until November.


Understanding Cash for Clunkers


The Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) was passed into law in the name of President Obama on June 9, 2009, with the majority of bipartisan support within Congress. The law was overseen by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Dealers of cars submitted the required information to NHTSA to benefit buyers who are qualified for new cars.


Advantages and Disadvantages


People who support the program have claimed that it was a huge success since it brought a boost to the economy and replaced numerous vehicles that are fuel inefficient with efficient vehicles, which resulted in less pollution. The program eliminated more than 677,000 cars that were fuel-inefficient off the roads. But, the program has come under fire. A liberal Mises Institute called the program an illustration demonstrating the "broken windows" fallacy, stating that spending generates wealth. Analysts at Edmunds.com were a part of the blame for the program's lack of second-hand vehicles. While this program was meant to spur automobile manufacturers in the U.S., only approximately 49% of all new cars purchased were made by the U.S.


The National Bureau of Economic Research declared that the program's beneficial results were tinny and short-lived. The majority of the transactions it encouraged could have been arranged without. A study conducted by Edmunds states that the program resulted in 125,000 car purchases which cost taxpayers around $24,000 for each transaction. In addition, most scientific analysts think that the benefits to the environment were minimal, mainly due to an extremely high price per ton of CO2 saved.



What Happened to Cash for Clunkers Cars?


The Cash for Clunkers program was in operation from July 1, 2009, to November 2009. The funds allocated of $3 billion had been exhausted in November 2009, and the government opted not to provide any additional funding to the program. All vehicles removed from it were bought back or junked and then dismantled, crushed, or destroyed.


Common Arguments Against Cash for Clunkers


The government provided money for free to companies that were only planning to change their minds and purchase new equipment. The taxpayers were paying much of their cost. It might have cost more than it did. There was no real exchange in their old cars for new ones as they believed they would, so it wasn't effective? This has raised more questions than did given answers. What did you have to do to be approved to receive cash in exchange for your cars that aren't worth the money? What were the problems people could use to cheat the system by creating fake problems in their cars? The program could have helped taxpayers save money at their cost if people chose to purchase more expensive vehicles. In addition, it put further strain on America's vulnerable energy supply. This is because it has encouraged motorists to be more driven.


Common Arguments in Favor of Cash for Clunkers


When you got rid of the car, you were driving and purchasing an entirely new vehicle; you saved the cost of insurance, repairs, and gas. Also, you'll save money since you won't have to buy a new car in the near future. If you could trade into your old car with Cash for Clunkers, you could have saved even more than if you had sold it. This is due to the trade-in value typically being a few thousand dollars lower than the amount they'd give you in Cash for Clunkers.



It was designed to reduce the environmental footprint. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, vehicles account for 19 percent of all American carbon emissions. Suppose more Americans drove fuel-efficient vehicles; that would mean an improvement in carbon dioxide production, which would mean less pollution in our air and water. This would mean less carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere and less carbon dioxide emissions. In addition, many old cars ended up being recycled and made into components for other items like motorcycles or industrial machinery instead of being disposed of in the garbage or incinerators.

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