Is Your Car Eligible for the Cash For Clunkers Program?

by Ryan Guina

The Cash For Clunkers Program is currently running strong, but it hasn’t gone off without its share of confusion. Leading the list of confusing topics is vehicle eligibility. The parameters for eligible vehicles have been discussed for almost a year and was recently finalized. However, before finalizing the list of eligible vehicles, the EPA completed a vehicle audit of over 30,000 vehicle model types that have been sold in the US in the past 25 years. As a result of the audit, over 100 vehicles that had previously qualified for the Cash for Clunkers program no longer qualify. This means many people will not be able to take advantage of the Cash for Clunkers program when their car was listed as eligible only a few days ago. The audit also added new vehicles to the list, so there are some people that benefited from the changes.

Is Your Car Eligible for the Cash For Clunkers Program?

To find out if your vehicle is eligible for the Cash For Clunkers Program, you will need to reference the official government Cash for Clunkers website,, and the official EPA fuel ratings from Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel economy website, also has an interactive vehicle fuel efficiency search with updated information. Be sure to visit the official government sites because there are many websites with false information and there are Cash for Clunkers scams popping up all over. Trade in vehicle eligibility: Vehicles must be less than 25 years old, which can be determined by looking at the vehicle safety standard certification sticker found on the inside of the driver side door. Trade-in vehicles must get a combined 18MPG or less, and must be registered and have had insurance for the entire previous year. Additional trade-in information: You may also be required to provide additional information, such as the number of cylinders in the engine, engine size in liters, transmission type, fuel type (gasoline or diesel), drive type (2-wheel or 4-wheel drive), Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), or even whether or not your vehicle has a supercharger or turbocharger. The dealership should be able to help you get this information if you do not know it off hand. Here is a simplified diagram from the Wall Street Journal:


New vehicle eligibility. To qualify for the Cash for Clunkers voucher, you will need to either purchase or lease a new vehicle with a combined mpg rating of at least 22mpg for passenger cars, or at least a 1 or 2 mpg increase for large and small trucks respectively. New passenger vehicles must also have less than $45,000 MSRP. Used vehicles are not eligible for the Cash for Clunkers Program.

Looking for a new car? Buying a new car is a big event, so be sure to shop around and get multiple car quotes before signing on the dotted line. Since you may be in a time crunch, I recommend getting new car quotes over the internet for convenience and to save time.

No physical voucher needed. You don’t need a physical Cash For Clunkers voucher to take advantage of this program. Dealers will apply a credit to your purchase. The dealer qualifies your vehicle based on government provided standards, then they apply for government reimbursement. Cash for Clunkers benefit is not taxable. The Cash for Clunkers Program does not result in a taxable benefit for participants, so you don’t need to worry about getting hit by the taxman next April. However, there may be some tax consequences of Cash for Clunkers Program for those with a business or under certain other circumstances. Here is additional Cash For Clunkers information.

Published or updated May 12, 2015.
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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 RB @ RichBy30RetireBy40

I was sooooo hoping my 9 year old Land Lover with 110,000 miles on it would be eligible for more money. Instead, it’s just a $4,500 cap used to buy an expensive new car which I’m not down with. Instead, they should give us $4,500 + the value of our car to really get us to exchange out our clunkers! $4,500 + $6,000 for $10,500 is pretty good!

If you are driving a clunker, are you really going to be able to afford a 20-40K car?

I don’t think so.

Rgds, RB


2 Craig

My car is not, it’s over 18 mpg or else I would highly think about trading it in because it is very old.


3 Brad Castro

Rats – I was hoping my 2006 Saturn Ion would qualify. The driver side back window won’t roll down and the driver side front window won’t roll up.


4 Kirk Kinder

Apparently, the program is already being suspended. I guess lots of folks were taking advantage of the government program. This is good news for the auto dealers…short term. Sales will probably drop once the program is done.

I saw a piece on NBC News where the dealers were saying that most folks using the program were not in the car market. This is not good. People who probably can’t afford a new car will now find themselves with a hefty payment because they wanted to get the $4,500. One customer that was interviewed said he looked at the $4,500 as a downpayment, which means he is probably buying a pricey car.

This program is great for those of us, I am included, that drive a clunker. However, it should only be used if you were already looking to buy or were within a year of buying. Otherwise, you may be taking on debt that you cannot afford, especially since most people driving clunkers cannot afford large car payments. That is why they are driving a clunker.


5 George Saad

My old suv which is eligible for cash for clunker, is registered in my name for the last five year, but now the registration was expired 2 months ago, and need SMOG,. Do I need to renew the registration and SMOG it? It seems to be a waist of money since the car is going to be crushed.


6 Ryan

I’m not sure, George. I think it needs to be continuously registered, but I don’t think there is a smog requirement. the only requirement I am aware of is “drivable condition.”


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