Thursday, July 16, 2009

No Cash For This Clunker

Now that the house is almost officially sold (we close July 30th), it's time to put some of the proceeds toward actual grownup transportation.

Some background: I've owned only three cars in my life. I've paid less than $12,000 COMBINED for them. I've personally put around 375,000 combined miles on them. I think I've gotten my money's worth, thanks mostly to fortunate car choices and bang-up maintenance with the help of my dad.

Speaking of, Dad bought his first Ford Taurus in about 1996. He must have liked it, because he bought two more shortly thereafter. One of these, a 1994 sandy-bronze colored number, became my second car. It replaced my first--a 1982 Monte Carlo that was beyond pimp--after it developed a bit of a smoking problem.

That first Taurus lasted me almost five years (and 120,000 miles), after which I paid cash for a 1998 Mercury Sable (seen above). Not fancy, not impressive, but reliable as hell. Seven years later and I'm over 240k on the odometer.

At my best count, my immediate family has owned nine Tauri/Sables. We ALL have one right now. It's funny and sick at the same time, because they're great cars mechanically but none of us is necessarily proud of them.

However, as cars reach the end of their lifespan, little shit starts to nickel and dime you. For example, I've got a wheel bearing that's about to go, and the air conditioning has a leak that's not so slow anymore. I had the coolant hoses replaced a few months ago. Normal stuff, but each repair yields a question: how much more money do you put into a car that's not worth any money?

A solution started to materialize. The Car Allowance Rebate System is on the horizon. Known colloquially as "Cash For Clunkers", the program works like this: trade in your car that is a) no more than 25 years old; b) registered and insured to you for at least the past year; and c) gets no more than 18 mpg combined per new EPA standards. You then get $3500 toward a new vehicle if it gets at least 4 mpg more than your clunker, and $4500 if it gets at least 10 mpg more.

I looked up my Sable.

The EPA says it gets 19 mpg.

As in, 1 mpg too many.



m.v. said...

that's estimated MPG, and according to CR it is a number for perfect conditions often measured on a test stand. I am sure you can argue for +/- 5 gallons with no objections. I get 30-31 on my Focus.

JJSKCK said...

m.v.-Unfortunately, it is the EPA's estimated mileage that is the basis for the exchange (at least as the bill is written right now). Inexplicably, there is no sliding scale--either you're above 18 mpg or you're not. There's no partial rebate for trading in an old car which gets 19 or 20 mpg.