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Cash for clunkers: American cars

Consumer Reports News: July 27, 2009 02:51 PM

The “Cash for clunkers” program intended to jump start auto sales is in full gear. The Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) allows consumers to trade in their gas guzzler for an instant credit toward the purchase of a more fuel-efficient vehicle based on specific qualifications.

All automakers are hoping to benefit from the potential sales surge. In particular, Chrysler and GM could benefit from a sales boost to coincide with their exit from bankruptcy.

If you are considering junking your old car and want to buy from an American brand, then check out our list of domestic vehicles that qualify for the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) program. All models listed are also Consumer Reports recommended, which means they must have performed well in Consumer Reports' tests, have average or better reliability, and, if crash-tested, provide good overall safety. In addition, we list the owner cost score, which factors in depreciation, fuel, interest, insurance, maintenance and repair, and taxes over the first five years. A much more detailed view of owner costs, for three, five, and eight years as well as full ratings, reliability, safety and more are available in the model overviews for each new car (available to online subscribers).

For comparison, we have included the overall mpg from Consumer Reports’ tests to illustrate real-world fuel economy numbers. To judge the benefits from making a switch, we used these figures to calculate the annualized fuel costs based on 12,000 miles a year at an average price of $2.50 a gallon for gas. We assumed the trade-in vehicle had 18 mpg. If the overall EPA mpg is less, then the fuel savings would increase. (Compare your fuel economy scenario.)

Make & model EPA mpg CR's overall mpg Annual CR fuel costs Minimum fuel savings Cost of ownership score (1-5 years)
Chevrolet HHR 24 24 $1,250 $417
Chevrolet Malibu (4-cyl.) 26 25 1,200 513
Ford Escape (4-cyl.) 21 21 1,429 238
Ford Escape Hybrid 28 26 1,154 595
Ford Focus 27 26 1,154 556
Ford Fusion (2010) 25 24 1,250 467 N/A
Ford Fusion Hybrid (2010) 39 34 882 897 N/A
Ford Mustang 20 20 1,500 167
Ford Taurus 21 18 1,667 238
Lincoln MKZ 21 20 1,500 238
Mercury Mariner 23 21 1,429 362
Mercury Mariner hybrid 28 26 1,154 595
Mercury Milan 23 21 1,304 362
Pontiac Vibe 28 29 1,034 595
Saturn Aura XR V6 20 20 1,500 167

For more information about the program, visit our Cash for clunkers special section.  To get advice on whether it is the right time to buy a new car, see our post Is Cash for Clunkers for you? Visit our New car buying and leasing forum to share your experience and give advice to others making the trade.

Liza Barth

Also read:

Cash for clunkers: Recommended cars that qualify for a voucher
Cash for clunkers: The best gas guzzlers to junk
Cash for clunkers: Compare the fuel savings
Cash for clunkers: Fuel and owner costs
Cash for clunkers bill cuts fuel consumption–running the numbers

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