We have a 1996 Dodge Caravan that we’ve owned it’s entire 13+ year life. We also own two newer vehicles, a 2005 Dodge Caravan we bought used and a 2007 Saturn Vue, which was new. We have three vehicles because sometimes it’s convenient to have a 3rd vehicle when one of the other cars is in the shop or when you want to haul around a bunch of dirty old stuff and don’t want to mess up your other vehicles.
The old van isn’t much fun to drive. The CD player doesn’t work and you can only get AM stations on the radio, plus some of the speakers don’t work anymore. The van is very loud when you get going faster than 35 mph, so overall it’s not a great vehicle for when you are doing a lot of driving. Things are starting to break that need fixing. The rust is starting to show up all over. It’s a time bomb of cost waiting to go off.
We were saving it for my son when he got his license in a few years, thinking it would be a good vehicle for him to learn on, but I think we’re finally ready to let it go. It only has about 115,000 miles on it, not much for one its vintage. We wouldn’t get more than a $1000 if we tried to sell it.
So when the Cash for Clunkers program was announced my husband got all excited because now maybe we could actually get some real money for the van, probably $3500 more than it was worth. It’s basically FREE MONEY!!!
To make it extra enticing the auto makers are offering deals of mega proportions on top of the government credit. You can get a new, fuel efficient car for under $10,000 just for trading in your old beater mobile. Even without the trade-in the dealers are offering some really sweet deals.
Of course getting the free money entails buying a new vehicle, one that gets significantly better gas mileage than the one you turn in. When I get my next job I am assuming I will have a lot longer commute than my previous 6 mile round trip one. So a nice commuter car with great gas mileage would really come in handy. (See here to see what mileage the government thinks your old clunker gets and what the new vehicles get.) This also means we needed to get rid of one of the other vehicles to fund the purchase in order not to go further in debt on the deal. We wanted to keep the vehicles we have because we like them and they are practical (except from the MPG standpoint.) We are at a standstill until my husband and I can agree on what to give up.
In the meantime, after just a week, the government suspended the Program since it managed to give away the $1 Billion it had allocated for the program. Today the government is working to add another $2 Billion of FREE MONEY. So yes Virginia, there is FREE MONEY.
Note: I really enjoy reading Michelle Singletary’s weekly column The Color of Money. She outlined the requirements for qualifying for the Cash for Clunkers program in this article: column on Cash for Clunkers Program. So if they reinstate the program I recommend you check out her article before rushing down to your nearest auto dealer to try to get some of that cash the government is throwing around.