Wanted: Your Gas Guzzler

The government's program to get fuel-greedy cars off the road is gaining popularity in Houston. Buyers get a cash rebate and dealers get a new car sale — something that's been scarce in the depressed economy. Laurie Johnson has more.
Hundreds of cars zoom by on the South Loop, where Russell & Smith Honda sits nearby Reliant Stadium.

They're one of the many dealerships welcoming people who want to take advantage of the so-called Cash for Clunkers program. Since the program started last Monday, they've already sold 19 cars.

"We never dreamed it would be that many that quick."

That's Janet Cousins, the dealership's finance manager.

"We knew we had some people that were waiting for the program to come out. But it has been a pleasant surprise. It has helped assist us in selling vehicles on people that might have waited."

Cash for Clunkers is a government program designed to get gas guzzlers off the road and help people purchase more fuel efficient cars.

There's no income cap or financial requirements.

Your trade-in can't be older than a 1984 model. Though there are some exceptions, for the most part it has to get 18 mpg or less. Depending on what mileage your old car gets and how much better the new car is, you can get as much as $4500 from the federal government to help with the purchase.

"In the economic times that we have, that we're going through right now, people that would have held on to an older vehicle see this as a way to get assistance from the government in purchasing a vehicle. And the majority of the people that are coming in and have utilized this program so far are paying cash for the remaining balance."

The program, officially called Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save, or CARS, goes until November or until its $1 billion budget runs out.

"Somebody found the number that said if every car dealership did 10, the money would be gone. If everybody did 10...well we're already at almost 20."

The federal money can only be used toward the purchase of a new vehicle. All of the qualifications and rules can be found online at www.cars.gov.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.
Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...