Clunkers for Clunkers


Americans love their trucks, perhaps too much.

The Cash for Clunkers program that took place earlier this year was meant to provide an incentive for Americans to trade in their dingy old gas guzzlers for new fuel-efficient cars. But according to a recent survey, the most common exchange made through the government program was to trade an old pickup truck for a newer one.

The rules for trading in trucks through the clunkers program were more leniant than for cars. New trucks only had to get two miles per gallon more than the trade-in vehicle. New cars, on the other hand, had to get at least four more gallons per mile. Still, the current numbers are surprising.

The Associated Press compiled data on 677,081 trade-ins through Cash for Clunkers (thanks to the Freedom of Information Act) and found that approximately 1 out of every 7 vehicles purchased through the program got less than 20 miles to the gallon. On top of that, the most common trade Americans made was an old Ford F150 pickup for a newer version of the same model. This happened more than 8,000 times.

According to the Associated Press, “Owners of thousands more large, old Chevrolet and Dodge pickups bought new Silverado and Ram trucks, also with only barely improved mileage in the middle teens. Those deals helped the Ford F150 and Chevy Silverado — along with Ford's Escape midsize SUV — climb into the Top 10 most-popular vehicles purchased with the government rebates. The most common truck-for-truck and truck-for-SUV deals totaled at least $911 million.”

One particularly extreme statistic shows that there were at least 15 cases where customers traded in their large pickup trucks for a brand new Hummer H3, which gets 16 miles per gallon.

The posthumous criticisms of Cash for Clunkers have been piling up recently, with arguing that taxpayers ended up paying $24,000 for each car sold through the program. claimed that though nearly 700,000 vehicles were over the course of the program, most of those cars would have been sold eventually anyway. According to, the real number of cars sold specially due to $3 billion Cash for Clunkers program was really just 150,000. The rest is just math.

The White House has since contested these claims. But the new statistics will likely be harder to refute. As of now, the government claims to be investigating the numbers to see if they are accurate.


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