air pollution

How to Get $1,200 and Save the Environment by Retiring That Old Set of Wheels

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Willing to part ways with that older-model vehicle? Proud owners of those "vintage" sets of wheels can now get a nice wad of cash and do a good thing for the environment.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is offering $1,200 for 1997 and older models through its Vehicle Buy Back Program, with the hope that getting enough of those "clunkers" off the roads will help improve the region's air quality.

Older vehicles aren't equipped with modern-day emission controls and thus tend to pollute the air at a higher rate than newer models, the air district says.

"While cars and trucks on Bay Area roads are the largest source of air pollution in the region, older vehicles run dirtier than those with newer engines and contribute significantly more to unhealthy air quality," Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the air district said in a statement. "Taking older vehicles off the road is a fast and effective way to reduce transportation-related air pollution."

Each pre-1997 vehicle "retired" from the roads prevents an estimated 75 pounds of pollution from being emitted into the air every year.

The program does come with provisions for the vehicles eligible to be bought back:

  • 1997 model year or older
  • Currently registered as operable and must be drivable
  • Registered in the Bay Area for the past 24 months
  • Vehicles within 60 days of a required smog check must take and pass smog check

Retiring older-model vehicles also reduces carbon dioxide, a contributor to greenhouse gas and utlimately climate change, the air district said.

The Vehicle Buy Back Program has retired more than 90,000 vehicles since 1996, the district said.

California has a similar program offering retirement options for vehicles that fail a smog check. That program is called the Consumer Assistance Program.

More information on the Vehicle Buy Back program can be found at

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