Thursday, August 13, 2009

Yet another problem with Cash for Clunkers

JayG nicely laid out the biggest issues with this program a little while ago over at his blog. Today I'm sharing an e-mail from my friend Marie in Virginia (yes! I have friends in Virginia! I know that blows your mind, but she's not in Hampton Roads), who ran afoul of rule #2, sorta:

(2) have been continuously insured, in accordance with State law, and registered in the same owner’s name for the one-year period immediately prior to the trade-in

See, Marie was trying to trade in her 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee on an 09 Subaru Forester, and was really counting on the $4500 credit to be able to afford to do this. But she can't. Because...Well, I'll share her e-mail, as she's asked me to help get the word out:


I am writing to you in the hope that you might be able to help me. I am a current military spouse being denied a $4,500 Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save (CARS) credit for a 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The reason for this is a nuance in the CARS legislation- that my name did not appear on the registration of the car for the entire year. The specific clause that is barring me from utilizing the credit is "Changes in ownership during this period to delete a co-owner due to death or divorce do not interrupt the continuity of the registration, so long as the purchaser has been shown as an owner on the registration for the entire period."

There is a very good reason why my name was never on the registration for the car until March 09. The guidelines by the military for those military members who are residents of a state other than VA is that cars should only be registered in the service member's name (spouse's name absent - even though it is joint property).

The only reason why this car is now in my name is because we are in the process of a divorce. Prior to March, the car was registered only to my husband- my name was not on the registration. We have a marital settlement agreement which states that all the cars we owned were considered joint property. In fact, when I transferred title to my name in March, the state of Virginia recognizes divorce/separation title changes and no state tax was required to transfer title. The state recognized that this was joint property by not requiring tax at that point, so I'm befuddled as to why the Federal Government doesn't categorize it as joint as well.

The 2 main goals of the CARS (aka cash for clunkers) program are to: a) get gas guzzling (and unsafe) autos off the road that are there now and b) to stimulate the ailing auto industry. Both of which, I have accomplished by purchasing a new vehicle and trading in the "clunker"

The Government has some pretty stringent rules as to what and who qualifies. Most of these are justifiably necessary. They all pertain to whether the "clunker" has been owned and driven legally for at least the past year by the person turning it in. I strongly feel that the spirit of the legislation was not to bar persons such as myself for taking advantage of the program. Especially since this particular "clunker" has been my main source of transportation for 6 years.

I'm now a single mother, working for the Navy, trying to get a safer vehicle to shuttle kids around- and it seems that I'm being penalized by a technicality- brought about by the suggestion of the military. To add insult to injury, by the definition- even my husband doesn't qualify to turn the car in under this program. By the strictest interpretation of the rule- even military spouses who lost their spouse to death and transfer registration into their names (if they weren't on there before) aren't eligible either.

It seems to me that a clarification or modification to what exactly constitutes ownership could be in order. If the vehicle was joint property of a married couple, for instance - and one can prove that their spouse and registration had the same address as the current registration.

I hope you can help in this matter. I look forward to hearing from you.

Very Respectfully

Marie B.

So. This is a prime example of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Or a corollary to the law of dumbass Congressmen. One or the other. In spite of the vehicle being registered in accordance with State Law, in spite of Marie being owner of the vehicle by virtue of it being joint marital property, in spite of Marie being the one to pay for all costs associated with that car (including the registration), because the registration was only recently amended to have her name on it, she's out. Now, I'm not a fan of the program for a whole bunch o' reasons. But this is a prime example of how even trying to do what the gov't wants you to blows up in your face.


BeautifulWreck said...

That is horrible. I keep reading more and more stories like this.

Marie said...

there is a bit of a resolve! The dealership is submitting my letter with their paperwork. My congressman has taken this up with the Dept of Transportation (or that's what the personalized letter said). I have confidence there will be a satisfactory resolve.