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California wants to buy your old car

June 26, 2009 |  5:41 pm


Looking to retire your retro car?

California will trade incentives for clunkers in a new effort to get smog-emitting cars off the road. An older state program only accepted cars made after 1976 that had failed a smog check. On Friday, the Air Resources Board decided to accept all cars, regardless of the year and whether they've failed a check.

UPDATE: You'll have to wait though. The state will start taking cars April 2010.

"It will encourage people to dump their old clunkers and purchase cleaner cars," said Karen Caesar, a spokeswoman for the ARB. "If you've had a car just sitting around that you seldom drive, it would be an opportunity for you to think about acquiring a new car, and it will help you make that choice."

Under the Enhanced Fleet Modernization Program, part of AB 118*, the state will now provide a $1,000 incentive if drivers turn their old cars over to dismantlers. Lower-income drivers could get $1,500.

Caesar said the state program is different from the federal "cash for clunkers" program.

"The goal of our program is to improve air quality," Caesar said, noting that the federal program is aimed at encouraging people to buy more cars with better fuel economy.

In the smoggy South Coast and San Joaquin Valley Air Basins, drivers will be eligible to receive an additional $2,000 to buy a new car that gets at least 28 miles per gallon and is less than 4 years old. Lower-income drivers could get $2,500 to buy a car that is less than 8 years old, as long as it also meets the 28 mpg requirement. The South Coast and San Joaquin valleys were singled out because they have the worst car-related air pollution, according to the board.

For those who wish to trade in their cars without buying a new one, the program will provide transit vouchers instead, Caesar said.

The program will be funded through 2015 by a $1 increase on the vehicle registration fee. The board estimates that the new measures would lead to the retirement of 15,000 additional vehicles a year.

*An earlier version said the Enhanced Fleet Modernization Program was part of AB 32. It is part of AB 118.

--Amy Littlefield

Photo: 1970s Ford Pinto. Credit: Los Angeles Times