Making the Most of Your Clunker Cash

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Rusty Chrysler. Image credit:AllPar
Update: Top 10 Most Fuel Efficient Cars to Buy with "Cash for Clunkers" Money

You've probably seen the onslaught of car dealership TV commercials promising you endless benefits from the new government Cash for Clunkers program (or Car Allowance Rebate System — CARS). The dealers have set out all their signs and wacky personalities and inflatable monkeys — all to get you to trade in your clunker for a better car right now.

I've spent some time discussing CARS with Ann Mesnikoff, head of the Sierra Club's Green Transportation Campaign, and she's really got this program down.

The truth, Mesnikoff says, is that the Cash for Clunkers program is only as good as we consumers allow it to be. "The environmental success of this all depends on the choices we make," she said.Up to $1 billion has been allocated for this program to help sell nearly 250,000 vehicles. The choice comes in what kind of car you trade your clunker in for. You see, right now it allows for someone to trade in a vehicle that gets low mileage - which for this program is anything under 18 miles per gallon - and get a $3,500 or $4,500 voucher toward the purchase of a new vehicle. Given the structure of this program, someone could turn in a 15 mpg guzzler and get a voucher to purchase one that gets a mere one mile per gallon jump in fuel economy. We can do better than that.

"Cash for Clunkers provides Americans with the chance to do the right thing: Reduce our dependence on oil and curb global warming," explained Mesnikoff. "Done right, this program will take a clunker off the road and replace it with something much more fuel efficient. By trading up to a car, one for example that gets 30 mpg or better, this program can help save you money at the pump, curb global warming and decrease our addiction to oil."

And of course we here at the Sierra Club are committed to helping you make the right choice. We created a Cash for Clunkers calculator to help you figure out what savings you can get by trading in your clunker for a more fuel efficient vehicle. We've also got a great Cash for Clunkers general information page as well — all this to help you and other consumers get this program to truly make a difference in your wallet and for our planet.

"There are plenty of cars for sale today that can help consumers save nearly $1,000 per year at the pump and emit less global warming pollution," Mesnikoff added. "Making wise choices could mean that 250,000 new fuel efficient vehicles hit the road."

But don't worry. Just for you, we're also working hard to see just what kind of results this program gets. We recently sent a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asking them to make available to the public basic information so we can judge the program. You know, if thousands of cars have been purchased so far, we want to know what has been traded in (mileage wise) and what is going out.

I think we all want to know if consumers are using tax payer dollars to purchase a guzzling H3T hummer pickup or on a new Chevy Cobalt, Malibu, Ford Focus, etc - something that gets a real MPG boost.

The Department of Transportation is creating a sense of urgency as well, with their website now set up with a "spend-ometer," which right now tells us that around $142 million of vouchers have been spent so far, leaving $858 million left in the pot.

So, if you utilize Cash for Clunkers between now and its October 31 deadline - don't aim low on MPG. Aim high and we will all benefit.

More cash for clunker posts.
"Cash for Clunkers" Gets Green Light In House Committee
Cash for Clunkers Passes - Auto Industry Saved? Blue Skies Ahead ...
Should I Cash In On My Clunker?

Making the Most of Your Clunker Cash
You've probably seen the onslaught of car dealership TV commercials promising you endless benefits from the new government Cash for

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