There’s been a lot of press lately about the “cash for clunkers” program, formally known as the Car Allowance Rebate System, a $1 billion government program that helps consumers purchase a more environmentally-friendly vehicle from a participating dealer when they trade in a less fuel-efficient car or truck. Consumers receive a discount up to $4,500 from the dealership when they make the trade.

The program officially started on July 1, 2009, but claims didn’t get processed until July 24, 2009… hence the buzz in the media.

Yesterday, The USA Today reported the government was putting the brakes on the program:

The government suspended the explosively popular “cash for clunkers” program, fearing it would go broke before it could pay what it still owes dealers for a huge backlog of sales, according to congressional offices and a dealer group.

Suspension of the program was confirmed by Bailey Wood, legislative director for the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), which had been called Thursday night by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which administers the program. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., confirmed as well, saying she had been told by congressional leaders.

However, the article continues on and reports that Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman said that the administration was “evaluating all options” and the program was not yet suspended. This has caused a bit of confusion about the program’s status; leaving consumers in the dark about whether they can trade in their clunkers as of today.

That said, if the program runs through its anticipated end date of Nov 1, 2009, Joe LaMuraglia, the founder of gaywheels.com, has this advice:

From a consumer’s perspective, go to Cars.gov to see if your car qualifies and be very careful when working with the dealer.  There are already some reports that dealers are raising prices to take advantage of the program.  Do your research on sites like gaywheels.com to get pricing first, then negotiate a price and then say that you want to take part in the “cash for clunkers” program.

And while the program needs to be more inclusive and include a broader range of vehicles and perhaps even older vehicles, LaMuraglia praised the government’s first attempt as a win-win for the economy:

Dealers get guaranteed money from the government and eligible consumers get a great discount on a new car. It is a great deal if your car is worth less than the amount you get on the program.

Wondering if your clunker qualifies? Click here to see if you can take advantage of this program before it runs out of gas.

Has anyone made a trade? Considering it? We’d love to read about your personal experience in the comments section below.

Image credit: Reprinted with permission – 2009 Copyright Pasch Consulting Group, Inc.