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EPA Mileage Changes Wreck Some Cash for Clunkers Deals

Posted: Jul 28, 2009 11:01 a.m.

Planning to turn in your clunker for a government voucher?  Double check the Environmental Protection Agency's mileage numbers before you leave the house.  If your old car was eligible last week, it might not be eligible today. 

The Detroit Free Press explains, "A last-minute update of federal fuel economy data caused confusion...among shoppers looking at cash-for-clunkers deals, making some old cars and trucks ineligible just as the program launched"  The EPA conducted "a review of data on 30,000 models from the past 25 years in preparation for the clunkers program," and made changes to some mileage ratings that "changed the eligibility of about 100 vehicles. Of those, roughly half had their mileage increased above 18 m.p.g., making them ineligible, while the other half were found less efficient and could now qualify."

If you're sure your clunker qualifies and you're ready to buy, contact local dealers to start the process.

The EPA "gave no reason its ratings were inaccurate or why some went up," according to USA Today.  "For the 2008 model year, EPA started revising mileage figures, typically downward, to better reflect real-world driving. For example, a Toyota Prius that had been rated 60 mpg in city driving fell 20% to 48 mpg," but the new round of mileage ratings was apparently unrelated to the change.  The Car Allowance Rebate System uses the most current EPA mileage numbers, even for older cars.

The changes, however, threw off some agreements that buyers and dealers had already signed.  Jalopnik notes, "New Jersey resident Jeff Chase was considering trading in his 1989 Mazda 929 for a new car and checked the government's FuelEconomy.gov website and it said it met the 18 MPG threshold to be considered a gas-guzzling clunker. He went back later to buy the new car only to discover the numbers had been changed and the combined mileage was now 19 MPG and therefore disqualified from the discount."

Edmunds' Auto Observer reports, "A few examples brought to Edmunds.com's attention by shoppers through its forums are a 1993 Camry station wagon with a V6 engine, a 1988 Toyota 4Runner and a 1992 Saab 900S. Initially each had a combined mileage rating of 18 mpg so they qualified as clunkers, but their ‘refreshed' rating came in at 19 mpg, so they ended up not qualifying."

Auto Observer notes, "This is the second major glitch in the program," coming after the official launch of the program was pushed back by a computer failure.  "Government officials said the public site for customers and the site for dealer sign-ups were on the same server, which became overloaded. The site was taken down on Friday night while the two functions supposedly were separated and put on two different servers." 

If you're interested in the Cash for Clunkers program, check out our Cash for Clunkers page.  If you're ready to buy, contact local dealers.  For the latest news on the program, check out Cash for Clunkers news.