brief thoughts on cash for clunkers


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

Related Post Roulette

30 Responses

  1. The Subaru will hurt you on gas. You’d be better off buying a cheaper Toyota or Honda SUV and getting more room for the same weekly gas price. I have a Toyota Rav4 and love it.Report

  2. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    E.D. nice blog. If you want cheap wait a few months, the Chi-coms will be sending their cars over for about $6-8 thousand maybe? You’re right, I needa engine, tranny, rearend, heater, radio, and maybe AC. Wife wants a Subaru Forester!
    Ask the American Auto Union membership how that Obama thing’s workin’ out for ’em now!Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

      Thanks, Bob. I think the auto-unions need to look in a mirror and then look to the boys upstairs. American auto-makers could have been making affordable, reliable cars years ago and they wouldn’t be in the shape they’re in.Report

      • Avatar Bob Cheeks in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        Yeah, it’s pretty sad. I have a lot of friends working at Lordstown making large green and they never figured it out, how someone making $50k/yr could buy a car made by folks knocking down $100k/yr.
        Well, the golden goose is deader than hell now!Report

      • Avatar Ryan in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        For what it’s worth, while perhaps not what you might call “affordable”, Ford’s Focus and Fusion are generally well-respected models. The Fusion, in particular, regularly wins best in class awards over its various foreign competitors.

        That said, I just got a Jetta. It cost way too much, but I love it.

        I have no advice about snow/mountain vehicles, though.Report

  3. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    Mike at Big Stick, how you like that Toyota? How’s maintenance, gas mileage, ect.? We’re looking…maybe used. I gotta Chevy Blazer I’ll sell you cheap!Report

    • I love my Rav4. Decent mileage (for an SUV). Plenty of room for the kids. Looks sporty. Handles well in bad weather (ours is front-wheel drive only). The rear seats are a snap to take out and it gives you tons of room. I’ve had all kinds of stuff back there including a deer and all sorts of hunting gear.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    If the government were not demanding that the “clunkers” be destroyed (and would, instead, permit junkers to disassemble them maybe… take out the transmissions, rebuild them, etc), I’d see C4C as merely a bad program that took money from everybody and redistributed it to random people. Since decent cars (wealth) are actively being destroyed? Oh. OH! Don’t get me started.Report

  5. Avatar Mr. Prosser says:

    Forget using the C4C program. Donate your junker to a non-profit (many will take them) write it off for $4500 and use a car broker to find the exact model you want with the particular extras you want. It works, I’ve been doing it for twenty years and in that time have had four new vehicles (two for me, two for my wife) They have been Toyota pickups and Honda Civics purchased for way less than a dealer would offer. BTW, I think the Forester or other 4WD is better and safer than AWD.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Mr. Prosser says:

      Thanks for the tip! Actually, yes, we’re looking at a Forester. So…4WD is what I meant to say. I’ll know for sure within a couple days (I hope) if this particular deal I found is as good as it seems….Report

    • Actually, this no longer works. The Feds changed the rules a couple years back so that you can only deduct the amount for which the charity sells the vehicle.Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to James Joyner says:

        Yes, I just did the googling necessary to discover this. Thanks….Report

        • I’ve donated two cars to Goodwill and got BlueBook before they changed the rules on the program. Even then you still don’t often have enough deductions to make it worth it to itemize over the standard deduction. I recommend just selling it on your own. You can always get more with a private sell than a trade-in. Hondas have great re-sell. My Civic went out the door pretty quick. They’re great first cars for teens and they can pimp them out all day long because of all the after-market stuff made for them.Report

    • Avatar karenc in reply to Mr. Prosser says:

      Unforunately, the government changed the amount you can claim for your car donation in 2004. Now, you can only claim $500 or what the car sells for, whichever is greater.Report

  6. Optional 4WD drive will save you a lot of money over AWD. That’s one drawback I’ve seen with Subarus. The new Forresters are pretty much just SUVs now. I liked the older body style a lot. The cargo room was fantastic.

    The Toyota Matrix is a really nice car too is you’re in the Forrester range. The only thing they don’t have is the 4WD.Report

  7. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    Thanks all for the tips, very useful!Report

  8. Avatar M.Z. says:

    So you want, $2/lb cheese, but won’t settle for anything except Gruyère and Brie. Thank God I don’t sell cars anymore.

    Roughly 15 mil cars are purchased a year. People buy a new car on average just short of every 3 years. Car companies are worried about the 20-40 million households that can afford a $16,000-$45,000 vehicle. There are over 120 million households in this country. For those keeping score at home, the top 20% are driving the feature matrix of vehicles, not average Joe.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to M.Z. says:

      And how are the car companies doing these days anyways? Seems to me their price-point is a tad bit off….Report

      • Avatar M.Z. in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        I suppose you are going to argue the same for the RV manufacturers. The actual economics are that small cars don’t make money. The big expensive rigs make very good money. The doo-dads make very good money. AWD and 4WD are high margin items that you just “needed.”Report

        • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to M.Z. says:

          I’m not arguing against choice or the possibility of being able to decide between Car A and Car B. My point is that the drift has been away from a sensible low-budget no frills Car A in favor of even basic cars having way too many frills. Nor am I arguing for “small” cars only. I never said any of that. I never said I was arguing for fuel-efficient vehicles or anything of the sort, though that’s obviously not a bad thing (and diesel seems like it might make a comeback for that reason). I’m just saying that it looks to me like a cheaper price-point, reliable, durable, but very plain and basic vehicle might actually sell very well. Indeed, even if it were a truck that was just very basic but cheaper than the ridiculously priced trucks out there today. I’ve spoken to lots of people about this actually. I was just talking to my brother in law who is a truck-only sort of guy who thinks all the frills they attach to trucks these days are absurd.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        This is why the old used cars must be destroyed.

        Keep them from flooding the marketplace and make it so that the poor who cannot afford a new car still cannot purchase a better used car than the one they have now.

        Order Must Be Maintained.Report

  9. Avatar Sam M says:

    “Preferably one that isn’t so computerized as to be almost entirely inaccessible to a mechanic or tinkerer without a diagnostic computer. I want durability.”

    But part of the reason that new cars routinely get more than 100,000 miles before breaking down is that the computerized systems are actually more reliable than the old systems. Sure, you can feel good about tinkering with your carbourator in the driveway. But you are going to be doing so a few years before I have to have my fuel injector checked by the computer.

    But I am right with you on fanciness. I think there is a mint to be had in re-releasing, say, the International Scout. Sure, yes, use some metal which will not rust out after a year (the Scout’s Achilles Heel) and do make some basic upgrade in other materials. Use a lighter material for the block, get some better milage, etc.

    But do you remember the Scout? It came, often, with sheet metal seats. It was bare bones across the board. It was loud. Etc. But man… it was sweet. Look at one. It resemble a brand-new Land Rover.

    Using the same design and saving on those costs, relying on the retro-cool, etc, it would seem one could be sold at a profit for something like $9,000.

    Screw the 12 cupholders and give me a car that WORKS.Report

  10. Avatar mike farmer says:

    When I first heard it on the radio, I was excited, but I thought they said — Cash for Drunkards.Report

  11. Avatar Isabella says:

    As with most government programs, the success of the “cash for clunkers” program is not measured in how well the consequences of the program align with the stated goals of its advocates. Nor is it measured by any economic impacts the consequences might cause. Instead, just like the example of the public library in George Dance’s recent article about Booze and books, the success is measured by participation or usage, not by any measure of the value provides or harm it does to our economy. The trick is to define the program specifically so that it has a known demand so the usage is high. Media spin and politics will make sure the right people hear the program was successful and beneficial. I heard a bit on NPR just today about the downstream benefits that recycling all these old cars has. Ridiculous of course, but the perception amongst the voters is far more important than the actual results and consequences. Certainly there will be follow-on programs, cash for major appliances, cash for tools, etc.Report