What is a clunker? Various dictionaries I consulted used terms like “a decrepit machine, especially an old car” or “an old or badly working piece of machinery” or “a noisy, dilapidated automobile.” Apparently there’s a new definition, courtesy of Congress: “any vehicle rated at 18 mpg or less.” The Detroit News has a link to a database to let you find out if your car would qualify for the “Cash for Clunkers” program that has passed the House and is headed for the Senate. The first thing you notice: the database has nothing to do with the condition of the vehicle in question.
Nope, the only deciding factor in determining clunkerhood is fuel economy. Forget about mufflers dragging the ground, doors and trunks bungee corded shut, mismatched tire sizes, rusted floorpans, broken windshields and crumpled bodywork. If you can manage better than 18 mpg, you’re not officially driving a clunker. At least those Arnage, Murciélago and F430 owners can sleep easy, knowing that their clunkers are worth $4500 should they want to trade them on a Chrysler Sebring. But this must really annoy drivers who opted for fuel efficient automobiles.