"Cash for Clunkers" driving up dealership traffic - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

"Cash for Clunkers" driving up dealership traffic

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by Bryan Goettel

IOWA CITY (KWWL) - A new program is getting old cars off the road, and bringing new customers into local dealerships.

The car allowance rebate system, or "CARS" is a billion dollar government program that helps drivers buy environmentally-friendly vehicles when they trade in a less fuel-efficient car or truck.

Consumers will receive $3500-4500 from the dealer.

After weeks of wondering how it would work, the "Cash for Clunkers" program is officially underway.

And it now has many in the car business wondering...when will I get a lunch break?

"We're getting swamped," Chezik-Bell Honda salesman Lee Hartwell said.  "It's great."

On Monday, Chezik-Bell officially put the green light on its start of the "Cash for Clunkers" program. Things haven't slowed down since.

"This is a welcome sight," Hartwell said. "This is good. This is good. This is going to be good for everybody."

Hartwell has been selling cars for twenty years. Never has he seen business get a boost quite like in the past two days.

"Standing, running from 9:30 in the morning until now, middle of the afternoon, and going through the rest of the night, not like this," Hartwell said.

Hartwell estimates the half-dozen dealerships in the area sold more than 50 cars as part of the program Monday. Salvage yards are also bracing for a lift.

"I believe it's going to be good for us in a sense because of the ability to sell some of the parts other than the engine off the vehicles," Ace Auto Recyclers manager Joel McCaw said.

McCaw is expecting to see as many as 150 clunkers make their way to his lot.

"We got a commitment of 17 cars today alone from one dealer," McCaw said.

The program is set to end November 1st or when the billion dollars in federal funding runs out, whichever comes first. Most agree that day is already close to being in the rearview mirror.

"I personally believe the funds could possibly be gone, quite honestly, by the end of this week," McCaw said.

"Eventually it's gonna run out," Hartwell said. "You just hope not too soon."

McCaw says he'll normally keep a car with good parts on his lot for up to a year and a half.

But as part of the requirements of the program, he and other salvage yards will have just 180 days to sell parts before the cars have to be destroyed. 

These are the requirements in order for a car to qualify for the "Cash for Clunkers" program:

-it must be a 1984 model or newer

-it must get 18 miles per gallon or less in combined highway/city rating.

-the vehicle needs to be drivable, insured and licensed for at least a year.

Online Reporter: Bryan Goettel

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