Cash for Clunkers Success = Greenification

August 24, 2009

The U.S. government's "Cash for Clunkers" program officially ends at 8pm on Monday, but not before handing out $3 billion to consumers who trade in their old gas guzzlers for new cars that sip at fuel. The program has been dubbed a success by the Obama administration, and indeed, customers were dashing in all weekend to try to take advantage of the genuine once-in-a-lifetime deal before it disappeared.

The preliminary numbers are impressive. At a time when American consumers weren't confident parting with cash, the program brought in 457,000 transactions as of last Thursday, at an average cost of $4000 per trade-in. It generated enough business to make car salesmen smile once again, and force carmakers to call back laid-off workers and crank up production to meet demand.

It wasn't perfect. The jubilant response means Americans are still in love with their vehicles. Nobody turned in a clunker and then left on bicycle. Officials weren't prepared for the massive paperwork requirements. And the government has yet to reimburse many cash-strapped dealerships for the trades made.

But it's a start. It's a move towards putting mileage in a more prominent position when negotiating car deals. It's a little forward motion, too, for our economy.

So what's next? And what if you wanted to get rid of a clunker that might need retirement but didn't meet the (rather narrow) definition of what the Obama administration was willing to take in trade? How can you get rid of a gas-guzzler while still getting a benefit?

Might we recommend that you turn it in to a charitable group and reap the benefit? All over the country, various nonprofit groups will accept cars as gifts. Sometimes the gift can be quite valuable at tax time. (You'd need to discuss that with your accountant. Please don't take our word for it. Ask your professional.)

You can pick a favorite charity and call them up. Some are more interested than others. Some will accept them on delivery, or even come and tow them away if needed. So if you're interested in getting rid of a clunker but can't get in line for the round of cash ending on August 24th at 8pm, don't be discouraged. You can still Greenify your ride and your pocket. You just need to pick a different avenue.


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