Cash for Clunkers: not just ill-advised, but actively stupid

See the not-fawning NYT article (crazy, isn’t it?).

Notice this part.

He revved the car, and within seconds, the solution hardened, the engine seized up and was kaput.

Wreckers were called to pick up the car, remove the spoiled engine and crush the car. They have to certify that the cars have been crushed and rendered inoperable before the government will process reimbursement claims.

This is infuriating to someone like me. My family has a history of buying older cars (a succession of 80s-vintage Mercedes (mostly) diesels, and recently a pair of 90s BMW 3-series) and maintaining them ourselves. One of our parts sources (and definitely the cheapest) is pick-and-pull junkyards, where rows upon rows of unusable cars sit, waiting for people to strip the things they need. I haven’t ever seen one that wasn’t busy.

Now, none of the cars we own qualify for the Cash for Clunkers thing, but some of the 220,000 (~ 1 billion / 4500) cars disabled and crushed were certainly built on the same chassis, and really the only wasted parts for us would’ve been the engines (and even there, there’s some commonality between a 1993 BMW 328i and a 1997 BMW 318i, for instance).

So. Cash for Clunkers’ impact on us (not just my family, but anyone who owns older cars!) was to: 1) make it more difficult and more expensive to maintain our 30mpg BMW and our 26mpg Mercedes station wagon (one of the very few sedan-based cars that can actually fit six people and stuff, even though it’s not in use right now) and 2) possibly force us into buying a newer car sooner than we’d like (one which would be vastly less suitable for our family). We could spend a few hundred dollars on a heater core from the dealer, but we also could’ve gotten it for $50, with a spare hubcap and some trim pieces, from the junkyard, and too much of that adds up.

Forced change!