Next month, the government will start handing out credits of $3,500 or $4,500 to owners who trade in low-mpg cars for higher efficiency models under the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), popularly called the “Cash for Clunkers” program. Here are the basic things you need to know to determine whether it’s worth it to you—and how to protect yourself from scammers.
Sure, if you’re dissatisfied with your vehicle, you could complain to the company. You could write to Consumerist, or even start your own Web site. Or you could park it in front of the dealership that it came from, with a list of the vehicle’s flaws and a warning to potential buyers plastered on in vinyl letters. A man in Colchester, England did just that.
Pat won an auction for an RV on eBay last week. He bid a little over $15,000 for a vehicle that was listed for sale by the RV company for $29,999 on other sites. Pat was worried that Nelson’s RV might try to find a loophole to cancel the auction since he’d scored such a great deal, so he immediately sent his required $250 deposit to them and asked for someone at Nelson’s RV to contact him. Eventually, after some run around, he got the following email—with one of the ballsiest excuses we’ve ever seen.
State Farm: This 1963 Chrysler Newport Is Not An Antique, Unless You Give It A Fresh Coat Of Paint. What?
Humphrmi’s 1963 Chrysler Newport has antique license plates, meaning he can’t drive to or from anywhere other than car shows, shops and parades; but State Farm won’t insure the car as an antique unless it gets a new coat of paint. “You have to paint the car,” they said, to avoid a 33% higher premium. Does this strike anyone else as insane?
Look, we know gas is expensive, but don’t save a couple bucks by topping off your U-Haul’s gas tank with water. We won’t pretend to care about U-Haul—not even U-Haul cares about their vehicles—but the next renter will want to bludgeon you with a rusty ice pick when their truck breaks down because you hosed the engine.
Sure, switching from a gas guzzler to a highly efficient (and probably much smaller) car is best for the environment, but it’s not a realistic solution for large families or people who can’t afford it. But don’t let the fact that you can’t buy a 40 mpg car turn you off of a trade up in efficiency anyway. A couple of economists have pointed out that “using ‘miles per gallon’ as a measure of fuel efficiency leads people to undervalue the benefits of replacing the most inefficient automobiles.” Their point: if you’re driving a gas guzzler, even a small improvement in fuel efficiency can generate significant savings.
If you own a Tacoma made between 1995 and 2000, Toyota would like to inspect it free of charge—and if the rust corrosion is severe enough, they will either repair the truck on their dime or buy it back as a vehicle in “excellent condition” no matter what state it’s really in. Toyota announced this a little over a month ago and said thy would start sending letters to Tacoma owners in the weeks to come, so if you haven’t received yours yet, be on the lookout for it.
We guess the sort of person who wants a luxury SUV isn’t too concerned about the idea of gas approaching $3.50 a gallon in the coming months, because sales have only dropped 0.9% over the past year, reports BusinessWeek. “‘For a high-dollar car, people with that level of discretionary income can absorb gas fluctuations,’ says Brinley of AutoData.” But it’s not just the filthy rich who have SUV-fever: sales of small SUVs have increased by 22.7%.
Ford is recalling 1.2 million vans, SUVs, and pickup trucks “because of a flaw in an engine sensor that could cause sudden stalling.” [Reuters]
It’s no secret that every DMV office is like a relocated bit of Soviet Mother Russia on U.S. soil, or that the people who work there really do talk and act like Patty and Selma. SmartMoney lists 10 other things that may not be as well known, though. For the most part, the list is light on advice and heavy on anecdote and scandal—but there are still a few good lessons to be learned from it. They include: visit the nondenominational dmv.org before you go; don’t ever buy vanity plates (especially ones that announce you’re a female); and flood-damaged cars, which are dangerous to drive, are being fraudulently sold as “used” via unscrupulous dealers who take advantage of lax DMV title rules, so always “screen the car’s VIN through the free database at carfax.com/flood.”
If you’re still thinking of purchasing a hybrid vehicle this year, time is running out to get in on the Alternative Motor Vehicle tax credit. We pointed out the official IRS schedule of expiring credits back in March, and now you’ve got less than 30 days to score a small credit (currently 25% of the original credit amount) on a Toyota or Lexus hybrid—after September 30th, the credit disappears for good. Honda tax credits may be cut by 50% after September 30th, but the verdict’s still out on this one.
Effective immediately, Chyrsler is upgrading its three-year, 36,000 mile powertrain warranty to a lifetime warranty. The warranty only applies to original owners and lessees, and specifically excludes rental companies and corporate fleets. Still, it’s a good news, right? The car experts at Jalopnik think it could be better:
The Consumerist is interested in hearing from car salespeople and customer service representatives in the automotive field. We’re looking for tips related to buying a new or used car. If you are or once were a car salesperson or worked in a car dealership and would like to confess, write to us at tips [at] consumerist [dot] com.
It was marked as an “IMPORTANT VEHICLE NOTIFICATION” and advised us to call a toll free number and have our current milage available. It warned that this was “DATED MATERIAL” and we needed to “RESPOND IMMEDIATELY”. The return address was from the “Warranty Notification Dept.”
It’s debatable, the best automobile in the world. So many contenders. Do you go for gas efficiency? Sleek looks? The powerful throbbing of its engine? Whether or not it can transform into a giant robot?