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Thinking About Buying a Car this Summer? Read This First!

August 4, 2009 - 10:33am


Chances are that if you've seen a car commercial in the last few weeks then you've heard about the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) Program. I know those commercials caught my attention on several occasions. And since my husband and I are planning on buying a new car later this year, I thought I'd do some research into the program to see if we might benefit. It turns out that our potential trade-in vehicle is already pretty fuel efficient and doesn't qualify for the program. However, if your family is considering upgrading to a new, more fuel efficient vehicle in the next few weeks, you may want to investigate whether your car might qualify.

The CARS Program, under the purview of the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), offers eligible buyers between $3,500 and $4,500 off the cost of a new vehicle when they trade in an older, less fuel efficient vehicle. More information on the program, including more detailed eligibility information, can be found through the CARS Program Web site.

While there is some question over how long this program will last, as of today, the CARS Web site says it is still operating. The Web site itself is a treasure trove of information, with a dealer locator that can help you find dealers near you that are participating in the CARS program, a list of helpful FAQs, and an interactive vehicle eligibility guide that can help you determine if your vehicle qualifies. If you need further assistance, you can also contact the CARS hotline directly at (866) CAR-7891 or TTY at (800) 424-9153.

Even if, like my family, you are unable to take advantage of the CARS Program, you still may be able to benefit from federal or state tax incentives for the purchase of an eligible hybrid or alternative fueled vehicle. More information on federal incentives for hybrid purchases can be found at For state-level incentives, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center maintains an extensive listing.