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EPA Disqualifies Shoppers From Cash for Clunkers Program

This article was written by in Consumer. 8 comments.

The Cash for Clunkers Program went into effect recently, but so did changes to the official EPA-estimated mpg ratings of several cars. For example, the 1987 Mercury Grand Marquis, according to CNN Money, was rated a combined 18 mpg last week, but as the program began this week, the rating for this year, make and model jumped to 19 mpg on Monday.

While a change of 1 mpg seems relatively insignificant, the Grand Marquis rated at 19 mpg no longer qualifies as a trade-in worth up to $4,500 under the Cash for Clunkers Program. Since the new legislation was made retroactive to July 1, car dealers have been including the rebate in their deal calculations before the rebates were available. Furthermore, dealers offered the anticipated credit as an immediate benefit to the customer with the expectation of being able to file for the credit. But this change by the EPA resulted in some cars no longer qualifying for the credit already given to the customers and as a result, some dealers have been asking customers for the money back or threatening to take back the new car.

According to the EPA, 78 models became ineligible for the credit after the reassessment of mpg calculations while 86 other models have become eligible, so there may be credits available for some who may not be aware. The recalculations occurred for model years 1985-2007 to use the same calculation that began in 2008. This puts all cars released since 1985 on the same scale, and this was a change required by the new legislation.

My 2004 Honda Civic changed from an official EPA combined estimate of 34 mpg in the old calculation method to 30 mpg in the new calculation method. You can see how your car’s estimates changed at the car finder at

Updated June 24, 2016 and originally published July 29, 2009.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

I’d love to see the wording of the agreements that were signed when the car was purchased. Somehow I wouldn’t think the customers would be on the hook for such a foul-up. It would seem extremely unwise for dealers to go after their customers in that sense…it might be the most direct way to retrieve their money, but that’s something that would definitely leave a foul taste in a purchaser’s mouth. It sounds like the dealers should be taking up their beef with the government.

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avatar 2 Anonymous

I’m sure there’s a governmental right hand/left hand comment here, but I’ll refrain. Not in the market for a new car but checked the Fuel Economy website for fun. 2003 compact SUV – old MPG 20/26, new MPG 17/24. Wow, I couldn’t get 17 if my life depended on it. Even in weeks of heavy city driving I’m getting above 20, hit the open road and I’ll get 25+.

What the heck are they using for these “more accurate” calculations? Oh, “Faster Speeds & Acceleration”, that explains it. I don’t drive like I’m qualifying for the Indy 500. I’m not an annoying hypermiler but I drive the speed limit and if the light turns red I take my foot off the gas.


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avatar 3 Anonymous

funny to read the comments from people in several articles online who had inked deals before these new mpg estimates went live – who are now left out in the cold because their cars/trucks no longer qualify. Oops. Way to go EPA!

On the bright side for some folks the changes mean that they now DO qualify.

Of course the whole program will probably be a huge failure either way.

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avatar 4 Anonymous

I’m not sure where they get this information. I looked up my car just for kicks. It says 17-27. My personal experience is 19-32. I usually get about 19 in the city (I’m not a lead-foot, but not a grandma either). But I get 32 on the highway whether I’m going 55mph or 85 mph. I’ve tested this several times and even on the trips I go over 80 mph I get 32 mpg. So I don’t know where they get 27mpg on the hwy for this car. I also looked at the “footprint” information they give. My car rates a 2 out of 10. How can something that gets 32mpg be a 2? I consider myself very environmentally conscious and although I’ve considered buying something more efficient I can’t find anything that beats my car as far as price (paid for) and safety (5 star rating).

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