Top 10 'Cash for Clunkers' Trade-Ins

A car sticking out of a trash bin

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For most Americans, the word clunker triggers a memory from summer 2009: the CARS (car allowance rebate system) program, commonly referred to as "cash for clunkers." The government offered up to $4,500 to each person who traded in a qualifying clunker — a vehicle reaching less than 18 mpg. An overwhelming 85 percent of vehicles traded in were trucks (and 59 percent of new purchases were cars). 670,000 autos and $3 billion later, the roads are a much "cleaner" place; fuel efficiency has improved by an incredible 58 percent. Check out the top 10 clunkiest clunkers here.

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Ford Windstar

Photo: IFCAR/Wikimedia Commons [CC by 1.0]

The Windstar is a minivan that was produced and sold from 1994 to 2003. It performed well in the minivan market, but the vehicle developed a bad reputation for reliability — headgasket failure, transaxle internal failure, cracked forward and reverse clutch pistons and transmission problems. Interesting factoid: In line with Ford's new theme of vehicles starting with "F", Windstar was renamed "Freestar." Despite a major restyling, the new van was built in the same factory and suffered the same problems — the redesign and new name did not help sales. The Freestar was pulled after two years and was replaced with the new Flex Crossover.

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Chevrolet C1500

Photo: IFCAR/Wikimedia Commons [CC by 1.0]

The Chevrolet C (denoting two-wheel drive; K series denotes 4WD) is the name for Chevrolet and GMC's full-size pickup truck line sold from 1960 to 1999. The C/K light-duty pickup truck was replaced with the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra in 1999.

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Photo: Hamed Saber/Flickr [CC by 2.0]

Appearing in multiple body styles over its four-decade lifespan, the Blazer was first introduced in 1969. The Blazer was a member of the General Motors C/K Trucks family, along with #9 on this list, the C1500 pickup truck — clearly a clunky line. In 1995, the full-size Blazer (K5) was redesignated as the Chevy Tahoe and the smaller, mid-size version (S-10) was sold until 2005. Interesting factoid: The Blazer body style is still manufactured in Brazil.

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Jeep Cherokee

Photo: Derek Curry/Flickr [CC by SA-2.0]

The Jeep Cherokee (XJ) was introduced in 1984 (after its predecessor, the 10-year-old SJ, was discontinued). Both two- and four-door versions of the XJ Cherokee were offered throughout its production lifetime, which ended in 2001. Interesting factoid: The Jeep XJ has remained a popular choice for off-roading enthusiasts. As a result, there is a thriving market of products and upgrades aimed at that audience.

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Dodge Caravan

Photo: JOHN LLOYD/Flickr [CC by 2.0]

The Dodge Caravan is a minivan manufactured by Chrysler, along with its sister product, the Plymouth Voyager. Both were introduced in 1983 and contributed to Chrysler minivans being ranked as the 13th best-selling automotive nameplate worldwide, with over 12 million sold in more than 80 countries. Interesting factoid: Despite a huge number of these clunkers being traded in, the Caravan will remain in the company’s product line until at least 2014, according to a November 2009 announcement.

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Jeep Grand Cherokee

Photo: StephenGilmer/Flickr [CC by ND-2.0]

The original Jeep Grand Cherokee, the ZJ version, was introduced in 1992 and followed by the WJ in 1999 and the WK in 2005. Each model has been available in a variety of different packages and the vehicle won several awards in the '90s and early 2000s. Interesting factoid: The 3.0L diesel ceased production for North America at the end of 2008. The late production models with diesel engines are commonly referred to as 2008.5 models; they can not be stamped as 2009 models due to tougher diesel emissions standards.

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Ford F150

Photo: Duane Tate/Flickr [CC by 2.0]

The F-Series is a series of full-sized Ford pickup trucks that have been sold for more than five decades. The most popular variant of the F-Series is the F-150 — it was the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for 23 years. The first F-series truck was introduced in 1948, making it no wonder that the F-150 takes both second and eighth place on this list, due to sheer numbers. I nteresting factoid: Ford owners have discovered that the cruise-control system in the vehicles can catch fire when the the switch system corrodes over time, overheats and then ignites.

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Ford Explorer

Photo: photomattick/Flickr [CC by ND-2.0]

Ford's midsize creation arrived just in time to capitalize on America's love affair with the SUV. As car reviewer so aptly summed it up, "The Explorer was the first go-to SUV for the Everyman." During the '90s, the automaker sold more than 400,000 Explorers a year because consumers found it stylish, comfortable and — best of all — affordable. The vehicle developed an Achilles' heel in 2000 when owners learned that trucks fitted with certain tires were prone to tire failure and subsequent rollover crashes. This vehicle earned two spots on the top 10 list.