MileageSmart

Capstone’s MileageSmart program puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to cutting your transportation costs and stretching your monthly budget.

  • car charging

Overview - MileageSmart

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Get up to 25% towards your purchase of a used high efficiency car, up to $5,000
Get Started

Why Use MileageSmart?

  • Get up to 25% towards your purchase of a used high efficiency car.
  • Save money on gas and maintenance while helping clean up our planet.
  • Improve your car-buying skills and get the best vehicle you can afford.

How it Works

There are a few steps to go through before you are driving away in your new-to-you MileageSmart car. While this can be done in as little as 3 days, most people will take more time before making such a significant purchase.
1

Attend (either in person or online) the MileageSmart skills workshop.

2

Fill out the MileageSmart application.

3

Pre-qualify for a car loan (if needed) at your local credit union or bank.

4

Find the car you want. Before your purchase, Capstone will let you know if your deal qualifies for the 25% MileageSmart incentive.

 

Get Started

Contact

Questions? Comments? 
If you have questions check out our FAQ page or contact:

Automotive Administrator
Capstone Community Action
mileagesmart@capstonevt.org
802 249-3043 (Voice and/or Text)
 
The Vermont Legislature created the MileageSmart program to help income eligible Vermonters transition to higher efficiency electric and hybrid vehicles.

How to Apply

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MileageSmart wants to help you buy the car that best fits your needs and budget, while reducing Vermont’s impact on the changing planet.

Save Money with Every Mile
Get up to 25% towards your purchase of a used high efficiency car.Get Started

See if you qualify for an incentive of 25% towards the vehicle purchase price, up to $5,000. To think of it another way, you can get a $12,000 high MPG car but will only need to take out a loan for $9,000.

  • At or below 80% median income
  • 18 years or older, cannot be claimed as a dependent
  • Employed, on disability, or over 60 years old
  • Need a valid Vermont driver’s license
  • Must have enough income to obtain a loan (if needed) to cover the balance of the purchase
  • This program is limited to one registered vehicle per licensed driver in a household. It cannot be used to buy a second vehicle for one individual.
  • Dependent children (or others that are claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return) are not eligible for MileageSmart incentives.
     

Example: You owe $7,000 on your current vehicle, but the dealer is only offering you $5,000 as a trade-in. Your negative equity on that vehicle is $2,000. The high MPG used car you want to buy costs $12,000. MileageSmart would provide an incentive of 25% of that price ($3,000). You can use $2,000 of that to pay off the negative equity on your current vehicle. You can apply the remaining $1,000 towards the new purchase, reducing your loan to $11,000.
 
Learn more about cars that are eligible (and how to find them) in the Buying Your Car section.
 

The skills workshop will cover a number of topics that will be useful in the car buying process. These include:
  • Budgeting
  • Credit ratings
  • Saving on your loan
  • Types of high MPG cars
  • Ways to find a car
  • Comparing long-term vehicle costs
  • What to expect at the dealer showroom
If you prefer to take the class in person, please email mileagesmart@capstonevt.org and ask for the current schedule.

Even if you don’t meet the program requirements, this workshop will prove very useful whenever you are ready to buy your next vehicle.
 
Questions? Comments? 
If you have questions check out our FAQ page or contact:

Automotive Administrator
Capstone Community Action
mileagesmart@capstonevt.org
802 249-3043 (Voice and/or Text)

Buying Your Car

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There's a lot to consider before switching vehicles or buying your first one. MileageSmart offers these tools and tips to help think things through before you make such a major decision.

Hybrid Cars Go Far
Get up to 25% towards your purchase of a used high efficiency car.Get Started

Tips for High MPG Car Shopping

Why look for high miles per gallon?
Vermonters spend a lot of time driving places—school, work, seeing friends and family, and shopping. A high miles per gallon car means you get further on every tank of gas. Fewer fill-ups leaves you more money and takes pressure off paying some of your other bills. You may also be able to lower your monthly vehicle payments by taking advantage of the MileageSmart incentive.
 
Transportation accounts for the majority of Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions, and those emissions have been on the rise. Not only does this pollute Vermont’s air, it contributes to the world’s changing climate. High MPG cars mean less pollution every time your drive, helping create a cleaner planet for future generations.

Types of Hybrids

Mild Hybrid (ineligible)
Plug in Hybrids
Full Hybrids
  • Gas engine and a generator
  • Generator allows the car to shut off while
    •  Coasting
    •  Braking
    •  Stopped
  • No additional batteries
  • Minimal gas savings (10-15%)
  • 10-50 miles on pure electric
  •  Gas engine kicks in once the battery energy is depleted to a pre-determined level
  •  Regenerative braking
  • Must be "plugged-in" to recharge batteries for maximum all electric travel
  • Gas engine and electric motor
  • Electric motor can move the vehicle
    •  Low speed
    •  Short distance
  • Regenerative braking
  • Much better MPG (30-40% or higher) 
     
NOTE: No mild hybrids are currently eligible for MileageSmart incentives.

How to Research

Any time you are buying a car, research is key to finding the best possible fit for your needs and budget. Take a look through our list of eligible cars. Check resources like consumerreports.com, edmunds.com, nada.com, and fueleconomy.gov to learn more about them and compare features. Talk with friends and family or your trusted mechanic to see if they have any personal experience with the cars you are considering.

Once you decide on a few cars that are right for you, check to see what is nearby. autotempest.com and cars.com are good websites to find local cars. Keep in mind that MileageSmart can only provide incentives for cars purchased in Vermont through an established dealer. Private sales don’t qualify.

Comparing your current vehicle cost to a high MPG one

It is important to look at the total cost of your vehicle over time. This includes things like your monthly payment, repairs, gas, insurance, and maintenance. You can compare the overall monthly cost of your current vehicle and the ones you are considering switching to by using this online Total Ownership Cost Calculator.

Qualified Cars

There are currently 37 models of used hybrids and electric cars eligible for the 25% incentive towards your purchase. No trucks or SUVs currently meet the 40 combined MPG requirement. You can see the complete list of vehicles on our MileageSmart Eligible Vehicles List.

Keeping it Affordable

Credit

Before you can get a loan, the lender will check your credit rating or score. This gives them an indication of how likely you are to pay the loan back on time. The rating comes from companies that track your debt history, how you’ve kept up with payments, what you currently owe, your income, and many other factors. 

Three companies provide almost all of the credit rating reports in Vermont: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. However, they don’t all use the same information. Big things like car loans, mortgages and credit cards will be on all three of the reports. Bills from smaller companies may be on only one or two of the reports. Credit items may also be included for varying amounts of time. While most things are on there for 7 years, a few will be there longer. Foreclosures, repossessions and bankruptcies are included for 10 years and student loans remain until they are paid off. When lenders see a low rating, they consider it a signal that you may be less likely to pay them back. This might prevent them from making a loan. Or you may get a loan, but it will be at a higher interest rate so you will wind up with higher monthly payments. 

Making sure your report is accurate may be the difference between getting your car loan or not. You should always review your credit reports at least once a year. creditkarma.com or creditsesame.com are websites to see your scores, overviews of your reports and helpful hints on improving your scores. You can request a free report each year from the three credit rating companies at annualcreditreport.com.

You want to look for errors such as debts that you paid off which are still showing as active or an overdue account that isn’t yours. It’s also good to be on the lookout for signs of identity theft such as these: experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/how-do-you-check-for-identity-theft

At the Dealership

Have you been pre-approved for your loan? Great!
Once you have identified a used car that meets your needs and is eligible for the MileageSmart incentive you are ready to visit the car dealer. Be clear in your own mind what you are looking for and how much you can afford to pay each month. It’s possible your salesperson is not familiar with MileageSmart. You may find it helpful to bring the MileageSmart Dealership Checklist with you.
 
If you decide to buy the car, you will need to negotiate a final price before getting a Purchase and Sales Agreement that includes whatever other details you discussed. 

The salesman will email that to MileageSmart for final review. Within two working days, you and the dealer will be notified about whether or not the deal qualifies for the incentive. If it does, you can arrange with the dealer about picking it up. If it doesn’t, you’ll get an email listing some options you can pursue if you still want the car.
 
Questions? Comments? 
If you have questions check out our FAQ page or contact:

Automotive Administrator
Capstone Community Action
mileagesmart@capstonevt.org
802 249-3043 (Voice and/or Text)

FAQ

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Q: Can I use the MileageSmart incentive to buy a new car?

A: No. the VT Legislature designed this program to support low income Vermonters with used vehicle purchases only. If you are interested in a new high MPG or all electric car, check out driveelectricvt.com

Q: I have two cars registered in my name, but one is only driven by my child to get to school and work. Do I still qualify? A: The program is limited to one registered vehicle per licensed driver over 18 in a household. Two separate individuals in a household could qualify independently, so long as one of them isn’t listed as a dependent on someone else’s tax returns. (See “Are You Eligible” in the How to Apply section of this site for more details).
Q: My child is 18 and heading off to college. Can he buy a car through the MileageSmart program? A: If a person is listed as a dependent on anyone’s tax returns, they are ineligible.
Q; Where can I see which cars are eligible for the MileageSmart program? A: Eligible vehicles are listed here.
Q: I’ve looked through your list of eligible cars. None of them is a good match for what I need. Can an exception be made for a lower MPG car that works for my situation? A: No. Only vehicles with a 40+ MPG combined rating (as tested by the EPA) are eligible for the MileageSmart program.
Q: Do I have to take the MileageSmart Skills Workshop? A: You must complete either an in-person workshop or take our online training.
Q: Am I required to take out a loan in order to participate in the MileageSmart program? A: We recognize that the majority of participants in this program may need to take loans out for their vehicles, however, it is not a program requirement.
Q: You have a list of “Green” Lenders on your website. Do I have to use one of them? A: Not at all. You can use any lender with a physical presence in Vermont. The “green” Lenders on the site have special interest rates for High MPG Vehicles, which might make the car more affordable. We do have a good working relation with VSECU, which may allow for quicker loan processing.
Q: I went to the bank and didn’t qualify for a loan. What do I do next? A: Ask the bank why you weren’t approved. They will likely have specific reasons and advice for improving your financial situation. Work on improving those reasons and try again later on in the year. If you need assistance contact us. Your local community action agency may have resources that can help with improving your credit. In the short term, you may need to look for low cost cars that you can afford to buy without needing a loan.
Q: I owe more on my current car loan than my car is worth. Can I use the incentive to pay off my old loan? A: As long as the amount owed is not greater than the total of the incentive. For example: If you owe the bank $3,000 after trade-in, and your MileageSmart incentive is $3,000, the incentive can be used to pay the old loan off. However, if you owed the bank $4,000 and were only qualified for a $3,000 incentive, the deal would not qualify unless you first paid down the $1,000 difference.
Q: Between my trade-in and the incentive, the new car is paid for but not all of the incentive was used. Do I get money back? A: No. The total incentive, in this case, will be the amount needed to buy the car outright. No cashback. For example: Your MileageSmart car purchase price is $12,000. The Dealer will pay $10,000 in trade for your current vehicle that you own outright. MileageSmart will only pay the remaining $2,000 rather than the full 25%, which would be $3,000.
Q: I bought a car through the MileageSmart program, but I was in an accident and the car was totaled. Can I get another car through the MileageSmart program? A: Sorry, we can only fund one incentive per household.
Q: I’ve been approved for the program, but don’t feel ready for the rest of the process. Does my application get thrown out after a certain amount of time? A: No, for as long as the MileageSmart program is funded we will keep your file open unless you ask us to delete it. Please note: MileageSmart is a pilot program and is currently funded until the end of June 2020. If funding is not extended, the program will end. Incentives are limited and will be distributed on a first come, first served basis until funding is committed.

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