Uncle Sam's cash for clunkers program officially kicks in later this week, but you can test drive some deals now. Two different things are happening that make comparison shopping a lot more interesting than it was just a few weeks ago.
First, those remarkably nimble marketers at Hyundai are already offering clunker cash along with $1.49 a gallon gas and other incentives. The South Korean auto giant has been fronting dealers money for almost a month to spur market share. It's working, The New York Times and trade press report. Other automakers are waiting to make sure how they'll get money back from the program. Meantime, Chrysler said it is doubling the government offer on some of its cars.
Second, Detroit, which still is surfing a tsumami of foreign competitors on various best buy lists, appears to have some additional new competition. AutoRemarketer.com, among others, reports that bankruptcy-jilted Chrysler and -General Motors dealers now selling used cars as independents, will be working to snap up their share of pent-up consumer demand.
So for consumers, we're back to square one in the buy-new-or-used-debate. Do we go with new car perks and incentives or money saving, depreciation adjusted, used car values? The rules haven't changed. The numbers might. Gentlemen, start your calculators.