Scrap programs for old vehicles

Scrap, scrappage, or early retirement programs provide incentives to consumers to trade in old cars or light duty trucks with low fuel efficiency and high emissions and buy new vehicles with higher fuel efficiency and reduced emissions. Such programs are typically run by government entities, public agents, or private companies. Programs generally include rebates, tax credits, or vouchers to purchase new vehicles; in some cases, programs have offered incentives for active modes of travel or public transit such as transit passes, rebates on bicycles, or membership to a car sharing cooperative (TRB-Lachappelle 2013).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Reduced emissions

  • Improved air quality

  • Improved vehicle fuel economy

Evidence of Effectiveness

Scrap programs for old vehicles are a suggested strategy to reduce emissions, improve vehicle fuel economy, and improve air quality (RAND-Dixon 2002, Sivak 2009, , ). Modeling and life cycle analysis suggests that these programs moderately reduce emissions (Antweiler 2011, , , , Lenski 2010, ), especially in densely populated areas (). These model estimations are very sensitive to economic factors, assumptions, and program design, however, and additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Costs for scrap programs are often high; however, programs can be cost effective in some cases (, RAND-Dixon 2001). Targeting programs can increase benefits and improve cost-effectiveness (, ), especially as fewer old vehicles with high emissions remain on the road (). Additional evidence is needed to determine effects of scrap programs on the second-hand car market and car use ().

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

Some states, such as California (Cal/EPA-Car scrappage), have their own vehicle scrap programs. Regions and municipalities have also implemented vehicle scrap programs, for example Denver, CO, Baltimore, MD, and several counties and regions in California (). Air Quality Management Districts or Air Pollution Control Districts in several regions of the country run voluntary scrap programs, such as California’s South Coast (CA South Coast-AQMD), Bay Area, County of San Luis Obispo, Antelope Valley and Mojave Desert (Old car buy back).

At the federal level, the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) also known as “Cash for Clunkers,” implemented as part of a 2009 economic stimulus package, resulted in the replacement of approximately 680,000 vehicles at a cost of $2.85 billion (US DOT-Project overview cars).

Citations - Evidence

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RAND-Dixon 2002 - Dixon L, Garber S, Porche I. Driven into a corner: To clean the air, California can steer old cars and new cars in better directions. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation; 2002.

Sivak 2009 - Sivak M, Schoettle B. The effect of the “Cash for Clunkers” program on the overall fuel economy of purchased new vehicles. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI); 2009.

Tyrrell 2011* - Tyrrell M, Dernbach JC. The “Cash for Clunkers” program: A sustainability evaluation. University of Toledo Law Review. 2011;42:467–92.

Dill 2004* - Dill J. Estimating emissions reductions from accelerated vehicle retirement programs. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment. 2004;9(2):87–106.

Antweiler 2011 - Antweiler W, Gulati S. An analysis of British Columbia’s SCRAP-IT program: Emissions savings, participation, and transportation choice. Rome, IT: European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists 18th Annual Conference; 2011.

Zolnik 2012* - Zolnik EJ. Estimates of statewide and nationwide carbon dioxide emission reductions and their costs from Cash for Clunkers. Journal of Transport Geography. 2012;24:271–81.

Lin 2008a* - Lin J, Chen C, Niemeier DA. An analysis on long term emission benefits of a government vehicle fleet replacement plan in northern Illinois. Transportation. 2008;35(2):219–35.

Lenski 2010 - Lenski SM, Keoleian GA, Bolon KM. The impact of “Cash for Clunkers” on greenhouse gas emissions: A life cycle perspective. Environmental Research Letters. 2010;5(4):1–8.

Lenski 2013* - Lenski SM, Keoleian GA, Bolon KM. The impact of “Cash for Clunkers” on greenhouse gas emissions: A life cycle perspective. Environmental Research Letters. 2010;5(4):1–8.

Van Wee 2011* - Van Wee B, De Jong G, Nijland H. Accelerating car scrappage: A review of research into the environmental impacts. Transport Reviews. 2011;31(5):549–69.

RAND-Dixon 2001 - Dixon L, Garber S, Porche I. Driven into a corner: To clean the air, California can steer old cars and new cars in better directions. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation; 2002.

Sandler 2012* - Sandler R. Clunkers or junkers? Adverse selection in a vehicle retirement program. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy. 2012;4(4):253–81.

TRB-Morrison 2010* - Morrison GM, Allan A, Carpenter R. Abating greenhouse gas emissions through Cash-for-Clunker programs. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. 2010;2191:111–18.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

TRB-Dill 2007* - Dill J. Design and administration of accelerated vehicle retirement programs in North America and abroad. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. 2007;1750(1):32–9.

Cal/EPA-Car scrappage - Air Resources Board (ARB). Car scrappage - Voluntary accelerated vehicle retirement. Sacramento: California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA); 2011.

US DOT-Project overview cars - US Department of Transportation (US DOT). Projects overview. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation (US DOT); 2013.

CA South Coast-AQMD - South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD). Old-vehicle scrapping program.

Old car buy back - Old Car Buy Back and Scrap Program.

Date Last Updated

Aug 26, 2014