There’s been a lot of talk in the news lately about the “Clunker Bill” passing the House. This bill would allow for people to trade in their gas-guzzlers for a voucher towards a newer, more efficient car.
I’ve been paying particular attention to this bill, since I myself drive one of these so-called clunkers. My car is a 1997 Ford Explorer. Behold:
I really love my Explorer, but I don’t love the gas mileage, the cost of gas, and the resulting carbon emissions. According to www.fueleconomy.gov, my car gets a combined mileage of 15 mpg, which means it falls under the 18 mpg required to be eligible for the voucher. This car also emits about 12 tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year (if you estimate 15,000 miles per year… I’m not sure how many miles I drive each year but I don’t think it’s that much). So why hasn’t this self-described environmentalist traded in her gas-guzzler already? Well, like many environmental issues, there are many factors to consider.
In terms of economics, my car is a winner. Although the gas mileage is low, and therefore fuel costs are relatively high, I don’t have to make monthly payments. Why buy a new (expensive!) car when I don’t have to? Why would I want to pay for a car when I have one that’s essentially “free”?
I like SUV’s. I guess that shows I’m a true American, right? I’d love to get a big pick-up, but I think that’s kind of unrealistic for me. Anyway, the four-wheel drive is a must-have in the winter, since our street is very steep and often icy. I love having the extra room to cart around school supplies, since I make a few trips throughout the year to buy potting soil and greenhouse supplies, as well as the occasional farm trips (hay bales, etc.) Those trips are rare, but still, I like having the option. Also, being a 28-year old woman with plans for a family someday, I don’t think now would be the time to down-size in vehicles, since I tend to drive them into the ground.
So, if I traded in my Explorer, I’d want to get another SUV. I have had my eye on the Ford Escape Hybrid (34/31 mpg) for a while now, so I’m going to use that as an example. If I traded in my Explorer, the clunker bill would allow for a $4500 voucher toward my new Escape. According to Ford’s website, a 4X4 Ford Excape Hybrid in my zip code will cost $32,120, or about $630 per month for 60-months (assuming no down payment). With the voucher, that brings the cost to $27,620. With the $4500 trade-in value from the clunker bill, the monthly cost would be $547. That’s still quite a bit, isn’t it?
While I think the clunker bill could be good for the environment, I have to say I’m not sure how many people will take advantage of it. I know that if I want to trade in my clunker, this would be the best bet for me to get a new car. I’ll never get $4500 for my car. However, this bill is designed to stimulate the auto industry, with the benefit (or under the guise) of being environmentally friendly.
Of course, the bill’s not a done deal. We still have to see what happens in the Senate. But in terms of this bill, at least for now, my conclusion:
No car payment = Priceless
Besides, would a new car have a rusty bumper like this?
What do you think?