Clunker owners should read small print

Wrecked cars are piled up on a scrapyard

TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: Ford is hoping for a boost when the so-called "Cash-For-Clunkers" program starts tomorrow. You've heard about this: you trade in your old gas guzzler for a more fuel-efficient car and the government kicks in up to 4,500 bucks. It's not quite that simple, though, as reporter Rico Gagliano tells us.


Rico Gagliano: If you watch television, like, at all, you'll likely see lots of "Cash for Clunkers" ads --like this one from Phil Fitts Ford in Pennsylvania.

Clunkers Ad: Bring in that old jalopy and get up to $4,500 towards the purchase of a new or select used vehicle!

The ad features shots of junkers from the 50's and 60's. The problem? "Cash For Clunkers" doesn't apply to jalopies that old.

Edmunds.com advice editor Phil Reed says that's just one misconception consumers may have.

Phil Reed: You have to have a car that's newer than 1984, and it also has to get 18 miles per gallon or less combined EPA rating.

And if you think you can buy a clunker today and cash it in tomorrow, think again: to get the money, you need to've owned the car a year. One more thing: even if you qualify for the program, the car-shopping maxim still applies -- "Buyer beware."

Reed: If you march into a dealership and you say, "I've got a clunker, wanna buy a new car," the dealer knows that you're $4,500 ahead of the game, and they're gonna hold the line on the new car.

So Reed says negotiate the price of the newer car first. Then tell 'em you've got a clunker to trade.

In Los Angeles, I'm Rico Gagliano for Marketplace.

About the author

Rico Gagliano is the host of Dinner Party Download.

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