June 19th, 2009

Let’s stick it to the gas-frugal

Here’s another case where the conscientious lose out: people who have old gas-guzzlers get to trade them in for government incentives of $3,500 to $4,500 when they get more energy efficient cars.

That’s not chump change, even if you figure into the calculations the fact that the sum is instead of (rather than in addition to) any trade-in value the car might have.

For example, I drive a rather old car: a 1998 (or is it 1997? I never can remember) Toyota Corolla. When I look up my car (assuming it’s a ’98 in good condition) at the Kelley Blue Book site, I find that its trade-in value is a whopping $2,175. If I could qualify for the new program, that would mean I’d get somewhere between $1325 and $2325 extra to go towards my new purchase.

But alas and alack, my little Toyota already gets good mileage, well over the 18 miles per gallon necessary to qualify. I never forgot the gas shortages of the Carter years, and it seemed silly not to get a vehicle that conserved fuel.

And so I’ll have to do without my government largesse. This is a familiar experience for me—I keep waiting and waiting for my piece of the Obama pie. I didn’t get a sub-prime mortgage, nor did I max out on my credit cards, so I’m stuck supporting those who did.

Dummy me.

25 Responses to “Let’s stick it to the gas-frugal”

  1. physicsguy Says:

    I drive a ’99 Ford Contour with 176k on it, and it still gets 30 mpg. The interior has suffered through 2 daughters going to school and soccer practice, but the rest of the car is fine. A motorhead I know says the Contours will run until 250-300k miles. Tell me again why I need a new car from Government Motors, or Obamadodge?? Oh yeah, now I remember: I have to support the UAW.

  2. Baklava Says:

    I’m so responsible i’m supporting my family, America and a woman and her spending habits.

    Dummy me.

    She just spent $200 for outdoor solar lights… It’s eating me up..

  3. Tatyana Says:

    Baklava: don’t worry, in 5 years it’ll pay itself off and you’ll start enjoying free power for your shaver!

  4. Tatyana Says:

    oops, sorry: thought you’re talking about Solar Panels (photo-voltaic power generators)

  5. Baklava Says:


    The unintended consequences of the program is that it drives down the value of all used cars (including yours). As more people opt for the new car (given the incentive) the supply of used cars goes up, the demand drops, wala – values go down.

  6. Baklava Says:

    I figured that Tat. 🙂

    There is no redeeming value to them. For $200 they don’t even give me a halo effect as I walk by.

    How does Obama always seem to have a halo in his pictures???

  7. Baklava Says:


  8. Gringo Says:

    The state where I live is offering such a program, and if I read the conditions correctly, I could take advantage of the program because my car is over 15 years old. One counter intuitive result of the program: it is difficult to find an eligible used car in an acceptable price range that is as economical as is my old clunker, which gets nearly 30 mpg city.It also passes emissions tests with flying colors, Old and ugly, but functional.

    I am on the fence regarding using the program or not. I think the car could go another 10 years.

  9. david foster Says:

    Of course, when the old car is turned in and scrapped, much of the energy used in its production is thrown away.

    How does this energy waste compare with the energy saved by moving people to newer and (ostensibly) more efficient cars? Think anyone in Congress cared enough to ask the question?

  10. nyght Says:

    Hey Baklava,

    That, in truth, may not happen exactly like that. If memory serves (and it usually still does =D ), the “trash the guzzler” bill requires you to a) own the car for an excess of a year, b) have the car insured for more than a year, c) have the car crushed, and take the junkyard slip to the dealer to get your credit.

    I’m not ABSOLUTELY sure that I remember reading that in there, but I’m pretty sure I did. Those 3 things combined might drive the price down on neo’s car (or mine, as I have an ’89 Accord with 272k miles on it), but it won’t be because of supply and demand, because they aren’t really increasing supply of older cars, as they’re supposed to be junked, and you can’t just trade them in or sell for more than they would otherwise be worth, since the program only lasts a year, and the car has to be owned and insured for a year. So it really shouldn’t have a huge effect on the supply side…

    That said, I think it’s hilarious that they’re saying “no earlier than ’84” and no “more than 18mpg”. I mean… that excludes about everything other than SUVs and a few trucks. There aren’t really that many cars left that fall in those categories. The oldest of the ones I see out there are the Japanese cars, and those are way outside the mileage limit (Mine, although 20 years old, approaches some hybrids and s[tupid] cars @ 38mpg… Well, at least, it gets that when I have inflated tires. I mean, I guess if I drove on the rims it might drop down to like 24-25mpg…).

    Anyway, it’s annoying to me, because I actually am thinking about getting in the market for a new car (I planned to drive mine until it died, but it seems to not want to die…), but this certainly doesn’t help me out. ='(

  11. nyght Says:

    P.S. – I don’t remember seeing anything about how they’re assessing MPG… I mean, I get 38ish right now, but I’m sure if I killed the o2 sensors and tinkered with a few more things in the engine, I could kill the mileage. Are they going by the estimated MPG based off the EPA? Or are they actually testing somehow? If the latter (I seriously doubt it), both neo and I might be able to take advantage of the bill!


  12. nyght Says:

    P.P.S. – “Those 3 things combined might drive the price down on neo’s car (or mine, as I have an ‘89 Accord with 272k miles on it), but it won’t be because of supply and demand,”

    Thought I’d clarify. I don’t think those 3 things will kill the price because of an increase in supply. It’s more likely that the “target cars” will lose value because of the decrease in demand. Mine in particular is a dinosaur that very few people would really want… I mean, they’re getting kind of hard to find, but I think it’s more because not many people want them.

  13. EArl Says:

    I title four vehicles. One is my work van, 1977 Chevy cargo van. Gets 12mph on a good day. Of course it is not included. Alot of blue collar workers will be out of luck finding a truck they can afford, as they will be turned in for the rebate. IMHO

  14. Artfldgr Says:

    actually with dealer incentives and things one may be able to get with a payment under 5k…

    go from a clunker and get 4500. get a very small efficient car, with money off and such..

    so look at it this way.. you go into a dealer and you go get an hyundai accent gs base model hatchback. thats 10,665… you talk the dealer down to 9,500… you apply your 4,500 from the state which has nothing to do with dealers…

    and voila.. a new car for 5k

    now you go out and sell it for 8k…

    then collect welfare…

  15. Artfldgr Says:

    i forgot to mention the downside.

    the parts market gets hit

    the savings and loans get hit since they are now giving loans for 5k instead of 15k

    the poor will hit a deadspot in affordable transportation down the road (which the elite may like as it will herd them into time wasting productivity lessening public transportation).

    repair garages will suddenly find business will drop as the new cars dont need fixing and while new will go to dealers (given that this will move business from tiny to large it fits fascism)

    you are going to see later this year (stock aleart if you are smart and can do it), companies trying to turn themselves into beatrice copies (i know they are gone now). that is, they are going to find that if they take large loans and then buy up every little guy, get it all together, have a crisis, they can be too big to fail, and voila… job security and an elite position in the new regime (for a while – see krupps).

    deaths from car accidents will increase since these new cars are much less safe in accidents. (trucks will not shrink, nor will poles, and deer, and most of what we hit).

    third world countries are going to suffer as the cars bought will be destroyed… this means that they will not get loaded onto ships and then go to africa and other places that live off of these cars and eek out a bit of economy.

    that covers the biggies..

  16. Nextcube Says:

    How many of the people who qualify for this program haven’t gotten new cars because they can’t afford them? With a “cheap” car (e. g. Ford focus) running 20k these days, how are the poor people in question going to pay for the other $15k of the price of the car?

  17. kcom Says:

    This whole thing is just effed up.

    Remember when Ronald Reagan said, “Government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem.”? The more they bend and stretch and tie the free market system into knots to force their pet policies on other people the worse off we’ll all be in the long run. They are building a gigantic Rube Goldberg machine out of the relatively simple laws of economics (supply and demand) and they just aren’t smart enough to pull it off. No small group of people is smarter than the collective wisdom of 300 million. The Soviets found that out with their ridiculously ineffective and stultifying five-year plans. Now the Obamaniacs want to add “carbon” legislation and some crazy health care plan. Again, they are just not that smart and can’t possibly forsee all the unintended consequences. Already we have this one being discussed – people who handled their finances wisely get the privilege of subsidizing those who did not. How long can a system last (and thrive) where the responsible people are penalized and the irresponsible people are subsidized? As Glenn Reynolds would say, that’s a bad incentive structure.

  18. adagny Says:


    I know a wrecking yard down the hill that has loads of clunkers of the qualifying variety for $100-$200. Might go pick up one for the wife and one for myself, put another $200 into each so that they run well enough, and then, Obama pie!

  19. FredHjr Says:

    kcom’s post gets the prize. He could not have said it any better than I could have.

    I am utterly sick to death of the whole meme of reducing carbon emissions. There is no man made global warming. The solar-driven warming period ended in 1998. The really good science on this matter even shows that CO2 levels FOLLOW, not lead increases in temperature during warming periods in the earth’s history. In fact, there have been extremely high CO2 levels during cold periods LONG BEFORE THERE WAS EVEN A HUMAN CIVILIZATION.

    For God sakes! I am a walking, breathing polluter! With every breath I exhale I pollute the planet!

    We have some people running the show now who are freakin’ nuts. They are absolutely insane.

    Anyway, I already drive a hybrid car. I do it for the gas mileage, not to save Gaia.

    So, on behalf of which auto company the government controls are these rebates being offered? GM? Chrysler-Fiat? I thought the government did not really want to run these businesses? That it wanted them to slash their advertising and marketing expenses?

    If this were an alternate universe it would be comical. Unfortunately, it’s not.

  20. Scottie Says:

    As something of a car nut (among other varieties of lunacy I suffer from) I cringe at this idea of crushing old “clunkers”.

    All I can think of are the fine old muscle cars that may end up in the scrap heap…..

    At any rate, I just paid off one vehicle, and am looking at paying off the SUV within the next year and enjoying life WITHOUT a car payment for a while.

    Not to mention I have yet another vehicle – with a V6 no less – that I plan to restore since it holds a certain sentimental value, and had pretty decent gas mileage until I parked it.

    That being the case, why in the world would I go out and buy a new one now?

    Another thought:

    A lot of these new cars will probably be those hybrids that are so popular and so “green”.

    Has anyone thought to compare the waste of each vehicle?

    If one old fashioned gas vehicle is totaled in a wreck, you have oil, gas, and a bit of grease along with a smallish 12volt battery to dispose of, and the rest is pretty much recycleable.

    Steel, cast iron, aluminum, glass, rubber, etc.

    Now consider a totaled out hybrid with a battery pack the size of a sofa.

    You likewise can get the same recycleables as with a gas vehicle – but you now have this HUGE quantity of acid you have to deal with on top of everything else.

    So yes you do get higher mileage in the short term, but you inject into society far larger quantities of toxic waste – all in the name of going “green”…..

  21. Fausta’s Blog » Blog Archive » About that cash-for-clunkers bill Says:

    […] it turns out, Neo-neocon has been looking into it, and what it comes down to is, Let’s stick it to the gas-frugal: For example, I drive a rather old car: a 1998 (or is it 1997? I never can remember) Toyota […]

  22. Tatyana Says:

    Scottie: excellent observation.
    I’m currently studying (or rather screeching through) for LEED accreditation exam, and right now came to the “energy and atmosphere” Credit chapter. Nobody, not one of the hundreds of writers responsible for the rating system, thought of that!

    *adagny: that’s what I call lemonade from them lemons. True American spirit.

  23. This ain’t Hell, but you can see it from here » Blog Archive » Saturday morning links Says:

    […] and Neo-neocon look at the Cash-for clunkers […]

  24. Michael Says:

    I have a SUV that gets ok gas mileage but ‘m sure that it does not get what President Obama thinks it should.

    That makes me smile.

    It is paid for and has at least another ten years left in it.

    They can put their clunkers or cash deal where the sun don’t never shine.

  25. OmegaPaladin Says:

    Art – if you think gridlock is more productive than taking a bus, you must really never leave the suburbs.

    Though, Neo, I might actually benefit from Obama. I owe a lot on credit cards and such, and my graduate school gave me even more debt. Getting rid of that would make my life a lot easier. If he offers that, I’ll take it, though it won’t buy my vote.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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