Oregon Clunker Customers Get Scrapping Checks

Some Oregon car buyers who traded in their old vehicles for more fuel-efficient models under the Cash for Clunkers program got an unexpected bonus check in the mail.

In addition to the $3,500 or $4,500 discount they received on their new car, dealerships like the Ron Tonkin Family of Dealerships sent checks to customers for the scrap value of their trade-ins. The government required that car dealers tell customers what their old vehicle’s scrap value would probably be but didn’t specify where the money should go. It said dealers could keep $50 of the cash.

Ron Tonkin told the Oregonian that although most of his customers had no idea the checks were coming, the dealership cut and mailed checks totaling roughly $200,000. Tonkin’s dealers were getting an average of $375 for the clunkers, so they deducted the $50 and mailed the rest to customers. It sold 681 new cars under the program and mailed out checks to those buyers averaging $325 apiece.

Other Oregon dealerships like Wentworth Chevrolet and Carr Chevrolet in Beaverton said they would send similar checks to their customers. All told, 253 Oregon dealers received $36.8 million in Clunker payments from the government.

This raises the question, though: Have dealerships around the country been following a similar protocol and mailing checks to customers? Or have they been pocketing the full value of the scrapped vehicles?

Some Auto Dealers Mail Clunker Customers Refunds (OregonLive.com)

Cash for Clunkers