Car Allowance Rebate System

August 08, 2009

After reading about it this week, Sibylle researched the Car Allowance Rebate System, or CARS program that the US government is sponsoring. In a nutshell: if your car qualifies you can get up to $4,500 when trading it in for a new car that gets better gas milage.

Her research showed that the 1998 GMC Jimmy she owns qualifies. Its combined milage is within the range allowed, she has owned it for more than a year and it has been insured and registered for at least a year prior to today. Both of us would like to have a vehicle that gets at least 30 MPG, as we feel it is criminal in 2009 to buy a new car that gets poorer overall milage than that. Continuing with some online research we started making a list of cars that meet our requirements. The Toyota Prius, Honda Fit, Ford Escape Hybrid, and the Honda Insight were all on the list.

Friday evening we visited a couple of lots here in town, after hours, and surveyed the available vehicles. Priuses weren't in evidence at the Toyota dealer, nor could we find an Escape hybrid. The Honda dealer had several Fits on the lot, and several Insights as well.

As we had cleaned out the Jimmy and washed it earlier in the week, we took this morning to empty, clean and wax the Lexus. The Kelly Blue Book value for the Lexus was between $6,000 and $7,200. The car has a few dings here and there, and the automatic washer sensor no longer works. (It also no longer sticks to the windshield like its supposed to, either.) On our way out of the house we agreed that we'd take $6000 for the Lexus, but no less.

At the Honda dealer we drove the Fit. It's a cute little car that doesn't feel little on the inside. It is rated to get a combined city/highway 30 miles per gallon. I think both of us were surprised at how nice a car it was, especially for a sticker price of about $17,000. After spending 15 minutes or so driving it, we swapped to a 2010 Insight EX. Several months ago I had seen a very caustic and derogatory review of the Insight, but we found nothing to dislike about except maybe the rear visibility in the inside mirror. After driving it for 15 minutes or so we were sold. That the Insight gets a combined 40 MPG rating only made it all the better.

Now all we had to do was find out what the dealer would offer us for the Lexus. Thanks to our research on the CARS site we knew that getting a car with a combined rating more than 10 MPG higher than the CARS trade-in, we'd qualify for the highest allowance of $4,500. After a test drive and some looking at the Lexus the salesman came back and offered us $6,500 for it. Well above our desired $6,000 valuation.

In order to qualify the Jimmy for the CARS allowance we are required to show proof of insurance for the past 12 months, and proof of registration for the past two years. In our case, since we just registered the car in July we have the July 2009-2010 registration, and the just expired July 2008-2009 registration. We also have to produce the title to the vehicle. Sibylle moved from Manhattan to Olathe in June 2007, and we moved from there back to Manhattan in January. Some of Sibylle's belongings actually moved from Manhattan to our apartment in Overland Park for a few months before settling in the Olathe townhouse. The title is in one of the boxes we moved two or three times in the past two years.

After dinner this evening we stated sifting through those boxes and papers we have in our office, and closets in the house. The high temperature this afternoon was about 102º, so spending any time at all in the garage looking through boxes would have been miserable. Our indoor search didn't turn up the title, so in the morning we'll be in the garage hoping to find "the" box sooner rather than later.

Monday morning at 9:00 we'll hand in all the paperwork to the Honda dealer, who will then submit it to the CARS people. The CARS program, as you may have read, has been wildly popular, and there has been a huge backlog of requests. The dealer wants to wait until we get approval from CARS before completing the paperwork on our new car. He assured us that he had been assured the backlog would be resolved this week and the new submissions should be approved in a day or two.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a short day of searching, and hopefully the backlog of requests is quickly handled by the CARS people.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.