Sunday, May 10, 2009

Can't you smell that smell? It's a clunker!

One-time Denverite David von Drehle writes a funny piece in Friday's Time mag about the government's proposed "cash for clunkers" program. He considers all the angles in trading in his much-used minivan (i.e., "clunker") for cash. I won't give away the ending, but along the way, David lists some great resources for his fellow clunker owners. Read the entire article at,8599,1896663,00.html.

As always, I turned to the Tire Business web site for info about anything automotive (actually it was my first Google-inspired visit but I'll be back). The Tire Business article snagged the following info from government sources:

According to an Energy and Commerce fact sheet, the Cash for Clunkers program in the compromise bill would be authorized for up to one year and provide for some 1 million new car and truck purchases. Under the program, old passenger cars and light trucks must get less than 18 mpg. Motorists would be eligible for vouchers of $3,500 each if their new vehicles improve on the old vehicles’ gas mileage by at least 4 mpg (for passenger cars) or 2 mpg (for light trucks). For improvements of up to 10 mpg for cars or 5 mpg for trucks, the voucher would be $4,500.

I'm not certain if my minivan qualifies. It's a 2000 Dodge Caravan, which makes it more than eight years old. But it's a flex-fuel vehicle. It's rated for 16 mpg in the city and 23 highway for gas, for an average of 19. For E85, it's rated 12 city and 17 highway for a total of 13. If you add those together, I more than qualify. If you just consider the gasoline stats, I don't. More Googling may be in order.

If approved, I will accept a voucher for $4,500. I plan to buy an extremely fuel-efficient passenger car that's not a minivan. We don't need one anymore. Our son lives in Tucson and we don't expect him to return to Wyoming. Our daughter has plans to move in two years (after high school graduation) to attend college in a big city. My wife has her own Saturn, and refuses to ride in the minivan until I remove the "smell" from it. I don't smell the smell, but she does. She describes it as part McDonald's wrappers, part mildew, part Armor-All and part Fat Tire Amber Ale. I have to explain that last one. I do not drink and drive. However, I'm charged with recycling and sometimes have kept containers of empty beer bottles in the van for a couple weeks. During the summer, minivan parked in the hot sun, the tiny bit of beer left in the bottom of the bottles begins to re-ferment and adds a bouquet to the interior. I won't say it's an unpleasant smell, but my wife will.

For that reason alone I should get a voucher.

With the $4,500, I will attempt to buy a Chevy Malibu hybrid or possibly a Ford Fusion, both high-mileage alternatives. I'll stick to American-made cars, so that my stimulus will stimulate the correct places. I will have to say sayonara to my Canadian-made Dodge, which has served our family well on cross-country jaunts and camping trips since we bought it used in 2001.

Not yet sure how I'm going to get all those recyclables to the big blue bins at our local grocery store parking lot. I won't be able to save up two weeks worth since they all won't fit in the little trunk I'm sure to get with an efficient vehicle. I'll think of something.


Anonymous said...

Cash for Clunkers sounds like a bad idea to me.

Michael Shay said...


Anonymous said...

Just a peripheral scan of the comments section over at the New York Times car blog is ripe with reasons. Here's a sample:

Commenter "Marie" writes:

So - once again, the people who made irresponsible, selfish decisions will get rewarded, and those of us who made responsible if un-trendy choices pay full price. I drive an 18-year-old car that I hoped would be eligible for this program, but it’s not — it gets more than 18 mpg (because, of course, it’s a Honda).

I will be buying a new car, and it will not be a Ford, Chrysler or any other American car.
Commenter "Lego":

This program is ripe for abuse. How many will go to the used car lot/classifieds buy a $500 car, and drive it straight to the dealership? And commenter "Kevin":

This bill is a horrid idea. Why punish people like me who already bought a fuel efficient car? Why not give people who buy efficient cars a tax credit or cash incentive when they buy one regardless of what they purchased before? These credits have largely sunsetted under the Bush administration. Clunkers will die from attrition the way they always have. This bill completely ignores the pollution and wasted energy from unnecessary manufacturing and the disposal of old vehicles. Doesn’t the congress have people who are capable of cost/benefit analysis? I’d like to rap some of these legislators on the head with my knuckles like Moe the Stooge would have. (h/t to Hit & Run)