The government funded car replacement scheme in the UK has now been extended. The program is one of many that have been instituted throughout many countries to help stimulate the auto industry. But are the programs actually worth the money? To help with this question let’s examine the U.S. model since the program did spur large amounts of auto sales and since the program has ended we can look at some solid numbers.
Using average numbers from America - given that an average “clunker” or older car is getting 15 mpg and travels an average of around 12,000 miles per year it would use about 800 gallons of fuel. If the owner of the car took advantage of the government program and traded in for a vehicle that got 25 mpg they would use 480 gallons of fuel less each year. That adds up to a large amount of savings for the consumer so far, and that’s where the politicians would want the analysis to stop.
As reported by the New York Times nearly 700,000 vehicles were traded in during the program which means the total fuel consumption in the United States would be reduced by nearly a quarter of a million gallons which equals out to a little less than 11.5 million barrels (there are 19.5 gallons to a barrel). The problems start to become apparent in these numbers, the U.S. uses 20 million barrels of fuel everyday so the actual savings in fuel are just over a half a day’s worth. Although that isn’t that impressive, it’s still something. However, the real predicament is in how much that fuel is worth compared to the amount of money spent to save it. If there was 11.5 million barrels of oil saved, as of 11/09/09, it would be worth just over 816 million dollars, but the government spent 2.87 billion dollars to save that money. That means that for every dollar saved in the “cash for clunkers” program the government spent around $3.50 which is far from impressive.
Yes there may have been jobs saved, and increases in demand, but I am more than confident in saying that any short term benefits will soon be eclipsed by inflation and even worse by massive decreases in demand over the long run.