My $4,500 Lemon: Taking the Feds Up on Cash for Clunkers

I had begun to think the government would never craft a bailout for me. However, Uncle Sam has selected me to stimulate the economy by buying a new car. Cash for Clunkers will pay me to do it

Eric Thomas for TIME

Author Von Drehle and family stress-test their Honda minivan

It's official: our minivan is a toxic asset.

The "toxic" part I knew already. Between the catastrophic diaper failure while touring Amish country circa 2004, and the projectile vomiting episode on the way to the beach in '01, my family van has been a rolling Superfund site for years.

The news flash is "asset." Thanks to the Cash for Clunkers program cooked up in Congress, our 2001 Honda Odyssey may actually be worth something — up to $4,500 if we trade it in on a new, more efficient vehicle. That works out to...

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