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How to cash in on 'cash for clunkers'

Fri, 19 Jun 2009

OK, the "cash-for-clunkers" or "cash-for-guzzlers" program has cleared both houses of Congress and is on its way to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature, which is likely.

Now, you have questions, such as, "How do I cash in on this?"

Well, here are some answers:

-- The program applies only to 1984 model year and newer vehicles. And the "clunker" has to have a combined fuel-economy rating of 18 mpg or less. You can find fuel economy ratings at

-- The payout is a voucher for $3,500 or $4,500, depending on the vehicle being turned in and the fuel economy of the new vehicle. Dealers are likely to handle the assigning and redemption of the vouchers.

-- The program has only $1 billion in funding and is scheduled to end on Nov. 1. But experts say funds will run out before then, so don't wait.

-- The program covers cars, light trucks, SUVs, light-duty pickups and work trucks. The trade-in has to be driveable and continuously insured for the previous year.

-- Cars: The new car has to be rated at 22 mpg combined to qualify. If the fuel economy of the new car is at least a 4-mpg step up from the "clunker," the voucher is worth $3,500. Step up at least 10 mpg from the "clunker," and the value of the voucher jumps to $4,500.

-- Light trucks and SUVs: The new truck has to get at least 18 mpg. For a $3,500 voucher, the step up from the "clunker" has to be at least 2 mpg. For $4,500, the step up has to be at least 5 mpg.

--- Light-duty pickups and vans: Vehicle weight must range between 6,000 pounds and 8,500 pounds. The new vehicle must get at least 15 mpg. A 1-mpg step up gets a $3,500 voucher. A 2-mpg or more upgrade gets the $4,500 voucher.

-- Work trucks: We're talking trucks that weigh between 8,500 pounds and 10,000 pounds and were built before the 2002 model year. Trading in one for a new work truck, or downgrading to a light-duty truck, will qualify for a $3,500 voucher.

-- Dealers cannot resell the traded-in "clunkers;" they must be crushed or destroyed.

-- Once the president signs the bill, the Department of Transportation has 30 days to write the rules for the program. So look for things to start in late July at the earliest.

By Dale Jewett