By Nick Sorrentino
“Uncle Sam is helping you buy a new car.” The ad says. “You could get $4500 from the government just for trading in your old gas guzzling car, truck, or SUV.”
Well that’s just great. What I wonder is why Uncle Sam doesn’t just buy me the car outright. Forget the incentive. If I bring in a clunker, give me a Chevy econobox in return. Seriously. If cash for clunkers is such a great idea, why not go all the way and just buy the car for me. That way I won’t be in debt to a bank. I’ll just tack on the cost of my car to the federal ledger. I’ll have a new car. The factory workers get to keep their jobs. And since it’s a GM product my new car will likely fall apart in 3 years time, thus providing jobs for unionized workers down the road.
Why make me get a loan at all. In this Brave New World money doesn’t mean anything right? So just trade me a crappy car for my continued servitude.
But money, even paper money, does mean something. With the CARS program many people are jumping back into debt because they see it as an opportunity. But if a minivan is $35,000 when it should really be $25,000, is that really such a good deal? So what, you get $4500 supplied by your fellow hardworking taxpayers, but you’re still buying a product that will to keep you in debt.
What would you do if you had no car payment? What would you have to do if you had another $400 going to the bank every month in the form of a car note?
Trust me. I understand. It’s tempting. I’ve got a real clunker. It leaks coolant and has a loose bolt somewhere in the engine so it makes all kinds of neat noises. But it doesn’t have a payment and I like that a lot.
As I did the cash for clunkers equation, I figured that the amount I would pay for a new minivan would over 3 years equal about $31,000 even with the taxpayer paid subsidy of $4500.
So I have instead decided to “pimp my clunker.” That is, I am going to fix that coolant leak and loose bolt and maybe jack up the air conditioning system a bit. I’m even going to get the beast repainted. No flames though. In the end it’ll cost me maybe a couple thousand, versus a new obligation to pay $31000.
Now, I love new cars. I am a huge fan. But when I do the math, even with the “free money” from the tax payer, er, the government, that new car is still damned expensive. So for now, until the book advance arrives and I can justify it, we will continue to cruise around in the 2000 family truckster. But no, I won’t be taking the tribe cross country in it.