Top Ten Vehicles Bought during Cash for Clunkers

by William Sprecher, Contributor
The cash for clunkers program, formally known as C.A.R.S. (Car Allowance Rebate System), ended officially August 24, 2009. According to a very official government press release, the number one car purchased, drum roll please, was the thrifty Toyota Corolla. Unfortunately for Toyota, however, due to the government's frankly bizarre and outdated methods which break down models based on drivetrain and engine type, a car can be counted multiple times. So for simplicity, as well as accuracy's sake, we’re using a method that combines all trims under one model. Here are the top ten cars sold under cash for clunkers.

Ford Fusion - $19,270

Ford Fusion
A flexible platform, reasonable base price and available hybrid drivetrain make this sedan a well rounded option for those looking to save at the pump and in the showroom. Ford was able to increase production of new cars by 14.4% with the help from the Cash for Clunkers program.

Drivetrain: 2.5L four-cylinder, 175 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque; 3.0L V-6, 240 horsepower and 228 lb-ft of torque; and 3.5L V-6,  263 horsepower and 249 lb-ft of torque
MPG: 22/31 (2.5L), 18/27 (3.0L); 18/27 (3.5L)

Toyota Corolla - $15,250

Toyota Corolla
With an already low base price of $15,250 and a massive 35 mpg on the highway, it's no wonder buyers flocked to the already popular Corolla. We are surprised it didn't work its way farther up our list. In all, Toyota made out like bandits from the stimulus program, increasing production of new cars by 19.4%.

Drivetrain: 1.8L four-cylinder with 132 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque; 2.4L four-cylinder with 158 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque
MPG:  27/35 automatic, 26/35 manual (1.8L); 22/30 (2.4L)

Chevrolet Cobalt- $15,660

Chevrolet Cobalt
Now we’re talking green! The Cobalt gets an estimated 37 miles to the gallon on the highway. Maybe its fuel efficiency is supposed to make up for all the Hummers on the road. Overall, GM performed well during the clunkers deal with increased production by 17.6%.

Drivetrain: 2.2L four-cylinder, 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft torque
MPG: 25/37

Chevrolet Silverado - $19,375

Chevrolet Silverado
Surprised this full-sized pickup made this top ten? Don’t be, it was the second most sold vehicle in the U.S. only two years ago and with a considerable 260 lb-ft of torque while returning 21 mpg on the highway means it has the best fuel economy in its class. The Silverado also comes in hybrid form to give it even more of an mpg boost.

Drivetrain: 6.2L V-6 with 195 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque
MPG: 15/21

Honda Civic - $15,505

Honda Civic
Ever since its inception in 1972, the Civic has always sold in good numbers as a well-priced, reliable and fuel-efficient car regardless of a slightly lacking interior. Despite the questionable split-level dash, a myriad of trims, including natural gas and hybrid-electric powertrains means there is a Civic for everyone. Knocking $4,500 off the base price doesn’t hurt either.

Drivetrain: 1.8L four-cylinder, 140 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque; 1.8L four-cylinder NGV, 118 horsepower and 109 lb-ft of torque; 2.0L four-cylinder VTEC, 197 horsepower and 136 lb-ft of torque; 1.3L four-cylinder hybrid-electric, 110 horsepower and 123 lb-ft of torque
MPG: 26/34 manual, 25/36 automatic (1.8L); 24/36 (1.8L NGV); 21/29 (2.0L); 40/45 (1.3L hybrid)

Ford F-150- $21,380

Ford F-150
Considering this truck is the best-selling vehicle in the country, it comes as little surprise that it made this top ten. What's more, this hauler comes in an astounding 35 different beds, cabs and trims. That said, we can’t imagine this full-sized pickup would have been able to command the full $4,500 rebate.

Drivetrains: 4.6L V-8, 248 horsepower and 294 lb-ft of torque; 4.6L V-8, 292 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque; 5.6L V-8, 310 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque
MPG: 15/18 (4.6L), 15/21 (4.6L), 14/20 (5.6L)

Dodge Caliber - $17,090

Dodge Caliber
The Caliber’s body style makes for a surprisingly utilitarian little car, especially for those who don’t want to compromise much after trading in larger SUVs. A starting price of just a hair over $17K coupled with Chrysler’s incentive deals resulted in a pretty stellar final purchase price.

Drivetrain: 1.8L four-cylinder, 148 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque
MPG: 24/30

Jeep Patriot - $18,425

Jeep Patriot
A good looking exterior and a sensible 27 mpg from its 158 hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine make the Patriot a reasonable trade-in, especially if you can knock $4,500 off a low $18K base price. Jeep also had a number of incentives running at the time that made Patriot’s price ever harder to refuse.

Drivetrain: 2.0L four-cylinder, 158 horsepower and 141 lb-ft of torque
MPG: 23/27

Ford Focus - $14,395

Ford Focus
If a full 35 miles to the gallon on the highway wasn’t enough to earn the Focus a number two spot, maybe Ford's awesome, voice-activated phone and audio Sync system did the trick.  It’s also the only car on the list that broke the $10K mark after a $4,500 rebate. The Focus is a lot of car for that little money.

Drivetrain: 2.0L four-cylinder, 140 horsepower and 136 lb-ft of torque
MPG: 24/33 automatic, 24/35 manual

Ford Escape - $22,675

Ford Escape
Topping our list is the handsome Ford Escape. This rugged little SUV can be had in a number of different trims ranging from a fuel-sipping four-cylinder hybrid, to a robust V-6 that pumps out 240 horsepower. With its good looks, myriad of trim levels and optional all-wheel drive, it's not hard to see why this came out on top.

Drivetrain: 2.5L four-cylinder with optional hybrid-electric motor, 171 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque; 3.0L V-6, 240 horsepower and 223 lb-ft of torque; , MPG: 34/31 (2.5L hybrid); 22/28 manual, 20/26 automatic (2.5L); 18/24 (3.0L)

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