While the winter season may not have officially started, temperatures across the country are already beginning to plummet. During this time of year, a vehicle’s reliability is a constant worry for millions of American drivers. As the temperature beings to drop, so do the odds that the engine will start for older vehicles. The American fleet is old and getting older. According to NBC News, “a new study shows the average age of cars and trucks in America has hit a new all-time high of 11.4 years, up slightly from 11.3 years in 2013.” Over 53 million vehicles on the road were built before the year 2000. The time has come to replace these clunkers with affordable, fuel-efficient, and reliable vehicles.
Fuel efficiency for new vehicles has improved in recent years, and they consistently achieve better gas mileage than their clunker counterparts. Many clunkers on the road today are dismally inefficient. According to the EPA, “During the two decades from the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s, vehicle weight and horsepower rose consistently and significantly, while fleetwide fuel economy slowly and steadily decreased.” Since the mid-2000’s, a renewed emphasis has been placed on efficiency. Today, per Automotive News, the average MPG of a new vehicle is 25.5 MPG. Inefficient, gas guzzling clunkers are emitting carbon into the atmosphere at much higher rates than newer vehicles.
Clunkers are not only costly to the environment; they can also be expensive for their owners. Even with low gas prices, a clunker with poor fuel economy can waste money by burning through excessive amounts of gasoline. Additionally, maintaining older vehicles is expensive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “In 2012, households owning vehicles less than 5 years old—not surprisingly—reported the lowest maintenance and repair costs per vehicle. Households with vehicles averaging 6–15 years of age paid $151 more per vehicle per year, on average, for maintenance and repair than did households with newer vehicles.” Newer vehicles often come with a comfortable warranty, not to mention peace of mind.
In 2009 a program known as the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), or Cash for Clunkers, was introduced as a way to revitalize the American automotive industry and to improve the fuel economy of the US fleet. The program was largely successful on both counts. According to Hybrid Cars, “The average fuel economy of a clunker was 15.8 mpg, compared to 25.4 mpg for the car that replaced it—a 61 percent improvement.” Hybrid Cars believes that the success of Cash for Clunkers sent a message: “Drivers in the United States have wanted fuel-efficient cars for some time, but have been waiting for the right time to buy.”
There may not be another program like Cash for Clunkers anytime soon, but it is clear that Americans want to trade their inefficient and unreliable old clunkers for new vehicles. The next generation of affordable transportation can act as its own program and replace gas-guzzling clunkers with fuel-efficient, reliable and affordable vehicles.