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Hmm. Last Friday, the official rules for the CAR Allowance Rebate System (CARS, also known as the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save Act of 2009 and the "cash for clunkers" bill) were released. Also last Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) "refreshed" the combined mpg ratings on its Fuel Economy website. Why does this matter? Turns out the refresh bumped some vehicles from the qualifying 18 mpg limit into "sorry, no good" 19 mpg territory.

The changes were discovered by people checking on Thursday to see if their cars would qualify and then seeing on Friday that they no longer did, according to Auto Observer. The EPA confirmed that about 30,000 models were put through a "quality assurance and quality control effort," and around 100 models shifted status. The EPA says that about an equal number lost their qualifying clunker status as those that gained it. Some of the no-longer clunkers: the 1993 Camry V6 wagon, the 1992 Saab 900S (pictured) and the 1988 Toyota 4Runner.

While we get that pushing up the bottom mpg line is a good thing, we have to agree with smart USA president Dave Schembri that the limit should be changed. Since it appears that it was charities that lobbied to have the 18 mpg limit included in the bill, we have to question why a rolling target – one that gives out a rebate based on how many more mpg the new car gets compared to the clunker – shouldn't be implemented.

[Source: Green Car Advisor, Auto Observer]
Photo by miss_elyse. Licensed under Creative Commons license 2.0.




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  • 12 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      While some cars were disqualified by the refresh, slightly more cars were actually moved into the eligible category.
      I disagree that the 18mpg standard is too restrictive. With the early signs of popularity the money will be gone in no time. It makes sense to limit it to the most fuel inefficient cars first.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The 18 MPG limit makes total sense, it should even be lower. If you trade an 18MPG car for a 10MPG more efficient one you improve fuel consumption by 55%. If you start with a higher mileage model, lets say a 23MPG car and upgrade by 10MPG you only improve 43%. So the lower the limit, the more bang for the buck we get as a result.
      • 5 Years Ago
      thank goodness...finally someone with some sense. All you people out there complaining that the arbitrary limit of 18 is way too low are off your rockers--how can you consider something that averages better than 18 (meaning possibly 22-24 highway) is a clunker?? Yeah there's some nominal gain to be had, but what a waste (waste of energy recycling things that should be reused, and actual waste from whatever is not recycled). Autobloggreen's comment about a minimum mpg improvement is much smarter--how many of those people turning in 'clunkers' are going to get vehicles that average 28 or higher? Probably not many.
        • 5 Months Ago
        hmm...that was supposed to be in reply to Mel's message. Just noticed that Brian is of the right mind as well.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This happened to me. 1991 Toyota Camry 6 cylinder. I looked up the EPA rating, worked with a few dealers, found a good car at a good price and then found out while I was at the dealership that the MPG rating changed. Really, really disappointed. I mean, I don't feel entitled to the $4,500 but I had done a lot of work to research new vehicles and get a good deal. A real heartbreaker of a last minute change.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I wonder how many people (and tax dollars) are in the committee to make sure the acronyms of any government program spells a word that somehow relates to what the program is about.
      • 5 Years Ago
      If this was an ongoing program that was to last longer than a few months, this issue might be worth pursuing.

      But since this project is nothing more than a short-term stop-gap measure which will expire as quickly as it appeared, there is little point in trying to fine-tune it.

      In fact, the 18 mpg limitation actually makes sense in such a limited program with such limited funds, because it maximizes the number of the worst low-mpg vehicles being removed from the road.

      The reality is that the funds will all be gone before any legislative change for the program could ever be passed into law. So if folks think there is something different that needs to be passed into law, it will need to go into a future clunker program. Because this one is what it is.
        • 5 Months Ago
        I certainly hope this program is not extended. At some point we have to slow down our spending.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The program can easily be extended, and it is expected to be. The fact is it is a horrible bill as-written. The 18mpg cut-off is waay too restrictive and the fact that charities are the ones that ruined it just guarantees I'll never donate my car to one.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm frankly suspicious of this whole "CARS is killing charities" notion. We've seen little evidence that it's going to be that widely taken advantage of, to begin with.

      Another thing to consider: the vehicle fleet in the 80s actually had HIGHER fuel economy than the current one does (fewer trucks/SUVs); only the serious guzzlers will be taken off the road. The older cars left in the fleet will become more valuable, as there will be fewer guzzlers available to dilute the supply. In the long run, this should actually BENEFIT charities, since the vehicles donated later on will be worth more.

      My guess? Vehicle-donation charities have been hit by the recession, period. People are holding on to old vehicles longer due to sheer need or uncertainty. The impact of CARS is negligible.
      • 5 Years Ago
      It's okay, the Saab 900S shouldn't qualify as a clunker anyways.
      Muscle Dude
      • 5 Years Ago
      Read this article: The Real Reason for the "Cash for Clunkers" Suspension. The ex car salesman blog shares exactly why they stopped the program. Even reports that some sales managers are calling asking for the money back because they were denied the rebate when the final paperwork was submitted but their car was already ruined by dumping a solution in the engine. They now have no car. Scary. See: http://tinyurl.com/ml9sdo