By Paul Rachwal
Tuesday, Jul 1st, 2008 @ 8:50 am
 
With today's gas prices at record-high levels and a weak economy, it comes as no surprise drivers are keeping their vehicles longer. But yesterday's reports have the government in some U.S. states and Canadian provinces offering incentives for buyers to get into new cars and get their aging vehicles off the road.



In Texas, for example, a program introduced in January offers as much as $3,500 toward a new or 1-year-old vehicle to individuals in Austin, Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth area with lower incomes and a vehicle they are willing to trade in that is at least 10 years old, failed an emissions test and was driven to the dealer under its own power. The money can be used to purchase vehicles that cost no more than $25,000 and is on a state-approved list. The $45 million annual "Drive a Clean Machine" undertaking has retired more than 11,000 vehicles this year, according to Detroit News reports.

In environment-conscious California, the state's Bureau of Automotive Repair has a $50 million a year program although individual subsidies are smaller. Lower-income residents can get up to $1,500 to retire vehicles that fail emissions tests or $500 to have them repaired. The latter has no income requirements, and the program accounted to getting 16,000 over-polluting vehicles off the roads in 2007.

In Canada, the government is a lot less generous. Starting in January, the federal government will begin a $92 million dollar program over three years in an attempt to get 50,000 older vehicles off the roads. In exchange for their older vehicle that is in running condition, drivers will be offered either $300 cash or a discount on a bicycle or a public transit pass. While the high cost of gas prices may eventually lead some to this option, at least it's better than burning one's own BMW in a desperate act of protest.

According to an R.L. Polk report released earlier this year, the median age of cars in the U.S. is a record-high 9.2 years in 2007 and 2006. Light trucks are at 7.1 years, which is the same high as it was in 1998. The same report found that last year, Americans sent 13 million vehicles to scrap yards, an increase of 0.2 percent from 2006 numbers.