Not everyone likes the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ incentive

Cash for ClunkersUncle Sam’s “Car Allowance Rebate System,” known to you and me as “cash for clunkers,” or CARS, is under way. The program entices car buyers to trade in their old cars for new ones in return for a credit of $3,500 or $4,500, if their old cars meet certain requirements.

The credit applies to the purchase of a new car or truck. Vehicles must be priced under $45,000. Trade-ins must be registered and insured the year preceding the trade-in, be in driveable condition and be less than 25 years old. (Cars older than that are considered antiques.)

One last caveat: Trade-ins must have a combined EPA city/highway fuel economy of 18 mpg or less.

New-car dealers are thrilled. But car hobbyists have reservations, says Chesapeake, Va., resident Terry Bond, vice president of the Antique Automobile Club of America.

“It’s not as ill-received as when it was first proposed, but there’s still a lot of concern,” Bond says.

That’s because once the older vehicles are traded, they must be shredded, although non-driveline parts can be removed beforehand. It’s the possibility of whole vehicles being destroyed that has enthusiasts concerned.

“We tend to look at the cars that we grew up with as ones we want to collect and restore,” Bond says. “We have to remember the original Chrysler minivan is a 25-year-old vehicle. There will be cars like that now that future generations will want to collect and restore.”

In the end, Bond acknowledges that while he supports the good intentions of the law, “we don’t support this kind of a thing from a collector perspective.”

David Kinney, publisher of “Hagerty’s Cars That Matter” price guide, which tracks collector cars, thinks that some collector fears are overblown. “If someone drove in with a car today, one with low miles and lots of features, it would be worth more than $4,500.”

Meaning the car would be sold and survive. Kinney suggests that the CARS program will have a limited effect because only a clunker’s engine will be destroyed. Other parts can be recycled.

“It puts more parts into the parts stream and help out collectors who have better examples,” he says. Besides, there’s the greater good to consider. “If it prevents me from getting stuck behind one of those lousy 15-year-old trucks with 315,000 miles blowing blue smoke off the road, then I’m all for it,” Kinney says.

(c) 2009, The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.). Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.