States Paying to Get Clunkers Off the Road


How can you get folks to scrap their low-mileage, high-polluting clunkers and buy more fuel-efficient machines?

Easy: Pass strict emissions testing legislation that in effect bans older, lower-mileage, higher-emission vehicles from the roads. Or, because owners of those vehicles are still voters, instead offer to buy up their old cars so they have the money to put down on a replacement vehicle.

The Detroit News reports that Texas launched a $45 million annual program in January called "Drive a Clean Machine," offering consumers in Austin, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth up to $3,500 for their old car, to go toward the purchase of a new or less-than-3-year-old used vehicle priced at no more than $25,000. The offer, however, is only to low-income families of four with a combined income of less than $63,000 whose cars are drivable but fail the state emissions test. The program has taken more than 11,000 vehicles 10 years or older off the road so far this year. 

Americans junked an estimated 13 million vehicles in 2007, or 5.2 percent of the total on the road; that’s up from 5 percent in 2006. Estimates are that, starting with the clunkers, if you replaced 5 percent of all cars each year it would take 20 years for all vehicles on the road today to be replaced with more fuel-efficient hybrid, diesel, electric, or hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

Industry estimates are that 50 percent of all vehicles on the road are more than 10 years old, but a significant 30 percent are 15 years old or older, and 13 percent are 20 years old or older, ages that suggest the vehicles are low-mileage/high-emission machines. Yet with the weak economy, some consumers can't part with them, regardless of gas prices. Keep in mind that these old cars, for the most part, lack the latest in safety hardware as well.

In California, the state's Bureau of Automotive Repair handles a program that spends $50 million a year giving lower-income residents up to $1,500 to retire vehicles that fail emissions tests or $500 to have them repaired. The program replaced 16,000 vehicles last year.

On Jan. 1, Canada will begin a national $92 million program to get 50,000 older vehicles off the road by offering owners $300 cash or a discount on a bicycle or a public-transit pass in exchange for their older vehicle. The vehicles must be in running condition. 

Even the idea of getting clunkers off the road has its detractors: car collectors. They insist every time an old car is junked, so too are parts and components like doors, fenders and seats that could bring another collector car back to life. The 20-year-old Ford you junked may be just the car with the complete set of door handles they need to restore their old car.

By Jim Mateja | June 30, 2008 | Comments (11)
Tags: In The News



Call me strange, but I really would rather keep my 1987 Subaru instead of a new car. The thing is as relaible as can be, and still gets over 35mpg. I can't stand car payments and have a huge dislike for airbags and all the newer safety equipment. As long as I have A/C and an MP3 player, I'm set. I really wouldn't want the state to push me into a newer car and out of my trusty Justy


I've got news for you and other high-minded thinker types. Most people don't drive clunkers because they WANT TO. They drive them because that's all the money they had. If everyone could afford a hybrid then I suspect they'd be driving them.

And, like Roo, I like my 16-year-old sedan. The occasional repair (it's a Marysville car) is much, much less than any car payment. Which, come to think of it, I haven't had in over a decade. How about you? Still investing a monthly check in a constantly depreciating asset?

And, the Houston program must be almost done. With only $45M, those 11,000 cars have pretty much exhausted the account. And be honest, if they couldn't afford a newer car before, what makes you think they could afford it with a 5-10% down payment? Think. I bet they just turned around and bought another clunker. In fact, I see a plan here but let's not let it go public just yet. ;-)

What about the waste of still-functional cars that are now being junked? How about putting money into helping people maintain these older cars and keep them running at peak efficiency instead of turning cars into even more of a disposable commodity?

As has been said by others here, just because a car is older doesn't necessarily mean it isn't efficient. A 1978 Honda Civic can get 40mpg.


There's more to emissions than just MPG. Every 30mpg car is not equal in what comes out of the tailpipe. While none do anything about CO2, there's plenty of other nasty crap that comes out of your Justy, your Accord and your Civic that new, modern systems just dont emit.

Now, if an automaker would have the balls to take a 1.3L engine and stick it in a decontented Yaris or Aveo and have it weigh less than 2500 we might have a winner for cheap 40+ mpg car. Surely they can make airbags weigh less.

Charlie Peters

Car scrap programs generate tradable pollution credits, a commody

An audit of remaining life to set credit is required by EPA

Public funds generate corporate welfare with no audit to justify the real profit being generated.

About 1/2 of the carbon credits of the world are being given to China and 50% is collected by China government as a tax on the credits.

Walmart, GE GM and friends are using world credits to payoff China and get slave labor generated goods and services.

Your market has an expandiong China factor that is a partnership with government.

Jobs and services are moving more every day.

A game of taking your money for folks that have more may not generate the best result.

Clean Air Performance Professionals
Charlie Peters


What about historical vehicles?


LM pointed it right!
There is big difference between 1987 car that makes 35mpg and today's car with same mileage. Modern cars are Zero or Partial Zero emission, while old ones are polluters.

"...If everyone could afford a hybrid then I suspect they'd be driving them..."
You wish! BTW, if you want to buy Civic you better get in line because by the end of the year you'll be paying extra $$ for one. Shortages expected. And you say they would drive... First, try to get one of those hybrids!!


What about offering tax breaks to consumers (and businesses) that can RETROFIT modern emmisions controls on older vehicles?

Hell even a subsidized catalytic converter replacement on 10+ year old cars would probably improve air quality.


How to get better mileage and lower emissions from any car: 1. get a reuseable air filter (like k & n) 2. check your tire pressure every month (I usually add 1 lb. a month six months and let out 1 lb a month the other six months. 3. get a better muffler, two 180 degree turns from the factory reduces power and mileage. 4. Hypermile - when the light ahead goes red, stop accelerating. when it turns green, accelerate just enough so your automatic transmission upshifts to 2nd when you take your foot off the gas, repeat as necessary. Longer brake/ engine/ transmission life, less stress, better mileage


Nice bit of arrogance there. "The 20-year-old Ford you junked may be just the car with the complete set of door handles they need to restore their old car."

To some people a car is just a utility. To others a cherished friend. I agree with Infosaur. Retrofit. I would be glad to swap a gas engine for a newer diesel engine in my old truck. Heck even the new gas engines are much better so why not take engine, trans and computer of a newer wrecked car or truck. But I guess installation costs would stop those who don't do the work themselves.


I agree! There are some people out there who can't afford another vehicle, especially by or with payments. I believe with 4,000 or 3,500 at minimum, someone would only go out and buy another clunker ( as called ). The chances of someone being able to find a desent effecient vehicle for 3,500-4,000 is 3-10. Yeah! if everyone had enough money or wealthy enough, they would accept this deal. The people would basically be buying a new car, how? The average price for a new or new used car goes for 17-25,000. You would get an estimate 5,000 for a down payment and there for paying approximately 17-20,000 grand for something new or better. If the gov. can't give a good offer, especially to those in struggling times, then expect a decline or negotiation in better offer. Overall I believe this is a good thing to do; get older vehicles off the road but if negotiations can,t be met, then it will be hard.

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