A Slow Start to Cash for Clunkers

June 12, 2009 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

As part of the war-funding deal reached yesterday between House and Senate negotiators, Detroit’s automakers found a $1 billion gift: The launch of a cash-for-clunkers program that focuses more on selling large, otherwise unwanted cars than it does on curbing greenhouse emissions, as the program was initially intended. Detroit News lays out some of the details:

Under the program, owners of cars rated at 18 mpg or less in combined highway and city mileage could turn them in for a cash voucher. Buying a new car rated at least 4 mpg higher would earn a $3,500 voucher; a 10 mpg improvement would earn a $4,500 voucher.

Pickups would be eligible as long as the new vehicle has a mileage rating of at least 18 mpg and is at least 2 mpg higher than the old vehicle. A new truck rated at least 5 mpg higher than the turned-in vehicle would earn a $4,500 voucher.

For even larger trucks, the fuel efficiencies of the new purchases must show even less improvement over the trade-in.

The program is expected to cost $4 billion, meaning the $1 billion approved yesterday is just the start. Some Senate Democrats, notably Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), are pushing for stronger fuel efficiency standards for new purchases as a condition of receiving the cash gift. She’ll have her shot the next time the program comes up for a vote, likely at the end of the summer.