Cash for Clunkers Replaces 700,000 Vehicles with More Efficient Models

The numbers are in on Cash for Clunkers, and the program brought about even greater gains in fuel economy than it set out to.

| September 2, 2009

The popular Cash for Clunkers program ended its run on Aug. 25, and the program is estimated to have removed nearly 700,000 inefficient vehicles from U.S. roads.

Officially known as the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), the program achieved greater fuel economy gains than originally expected, as consumers chose more fuel-efficient models than were required by the program.

In fact, the average fuel economy of the traded-in vehicles, which were crushed, was 15.8 miles per gallon (mpg), while the average fuel economy of the newly purchased vehicles was 24.9 mpg — a gain of 9.1 mpg, or 58 percent.

That figure makes sense for trade-ins of old cars for new cars, because those trade-ins earned the maximum rebate with a 10 mpg increase in fuel economy. However, analysts expected trade-ins of light trucks (sport utility vehicles, pickups and vans) for new light trucks to drag down the fuel economy gains, as such trade-ins could earn the maximum rebate with a fuel economy gain of only 5 mpg. But according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), such truck-for-truck trade-ins were less common than expected, as 84 percent of the program participants traded in trucks, but only 41 percent purchased new trucks, which means that more than half of the truck owners traded their vehicles in for a car.

The results are even starker for heavier vehicles, as 8,134 heavy work trucks were traded in, but only 2,408 new heavy work trucks were purchased, and 116,909 large pickups or vans were traded in, but only 46,838 new ones were purchased. The fuel economy of the newly purchased cars was also 19 percent greater than the average fuel economy of all new cars available in the United States.

The CARS program allowed dealers to start providing rebates to customers on July 1, even though the program didn’t officially start until July 24. The billion-dollar program proved so popular that Congress had to quickly approve an additional $2 billion for the program, which was approved by President Obama on Aug. 7.

9/16/2009 1:11:41 PM

What a waste. Reduce Reuse Recycle. Amen to less government smoke and mirrors and just less government all together. Boo on them too hasty, not well thought out. Why not spark an revolution of industry and give allowances for converting old engines to more efficient hybrid or alternative fuels. I hear great things about adding flywheels and other alternative modifications. I thought about buying a old used vehicle to convert to electric. Even better they could have donated those vehicles to research at universities and tech centers for improved modifications that could benefit fuel powered vehicles all over the world now and into the future. Anyway. God bless and toast to a smart future.

Pat Haskell
9/15/2009 8:36:01 AM

Clunkers A vehicle at 15 mpg and 12,000 miles per year uses 800 gallons a year of gasoline. A vehicle at 25 mpg and 12,000 miles per year uses 480 gallons a year. So, the average clunker transaction will reduce US gasoline consumption by 320 gallons per year. They claim 700,000 vehicles – so that's 224 million gallons / year. That equates to a bit over 5 million barrels of oil. 5 million barrels of oil is about ¼ of one day's US consumption. And, 5 million barrels of oil costs about $350 million dollars at $75/bbl. So, we all contributed to spending $3 billion to save $350 million. How good a deal was that??? They'll probably do a great job w. health care though!!

9/7/2009 9:45:01 AM

I wish that Mother Earth News were more skeptical of the government line. Cash for Clunkers has destroyed too many useful cars that could be donated or sold cheaply to our marginalized people, for instance the rural poor who frequently have difficulty keeping jobs because of unreliable transportation. Personally it is waste that I hate, and what is more wasteful than Cash for Clunkers?

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!