The court approval of Volkswagen’s $14.7 billion diesel emissions settlement Tuesday was an important milestone, bringing the scandal one step closer to completion for hundreds of thousands of beleaguered diesel owners.
Here’s what the settlement means for different kinds of VW customers:
People Who Want Their Cars Bought Back
This group is the biggest winner. People who want to sell their diesels to VW get restitution payments, plus the NADA clean trade-in value (the pricing reference used by most dealers) from Sept. 18, 2015—before the scandal broke. (You can find a table here giving a range of estimated settlement amounts.)
This deal is intended to be generous and slanted toward the consumer, in part to punish VW and deter other companies from thinking that cheating emissions laws is a viable option. Total settlement amounts should be the car’s former book value, plus $5,100 to $9,900 depending on mileage, features, and age.
The cash bonuses should make up for any quibbles about the fairness of the trade-in value, and if you want to be done with your current VW, you should be able to buy a better car with the cash you get from VW.
VW dealers are also expected to offer some incentives if you want to turn all that cash into a new gasoline-powered Volkswagen.
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People Who Have a Lease
The settlement generally treats this group like the buyback group, with dealers agreeing to take the cars back and terminate the leases. The cash payments will be about half of what VW owners get. (Again, there’s a table for this.)
People Who Want Their Cars Fixed
Some people may still like the cars they originally picked out, so they’ll want to get them fixed. People in this group will have to wait a little longer to learn the details, and how much any recall repair will affect fuel economy and performance. That’s the biggest fear among VW enthusiasts—that the fun-to-drive VWs will drink more fuel and lose some of their acceleration.
Consumer Reports conducted some simulations of what it was like to drive VWs in “cheat mode” last year. Our engineers figured out how to trick two cars into believing they were being tested for emissions, and drove them with emissions-control systems engaged. We don't know whether VW’s pending fixes will duplicate what our engineers experienced, but for reference we found a noticeable decline in fuel economy and reduced acceleration.
There’s still no approved diesel repair for these cars to evaluate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California’s Air Resources Board have to give their OK before any repairs can be done. The court agreement gives the regulators 45 days to review whatever VW proposes, and the EPA is saying it's going to try to adhere to that timetable.
There’s still time to wait before making up your mind about repairing versus selling. The settlement program has a Sept. 1, 2018 deadline.
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People Who Don’t Think the Settlement is Generous Enough
They have the option of pursuing a lawsuit on their own. At this stage, it’s hard to see how they could get more than the government got in the settlement, but it’s within their rights to make their own challenge. But they'd be giving up VW's promise to buy back their cars and forgoing the $5,100 to $9,900 compensation payments.
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People Who Want to Pretend This Never Happened
The government can’t force you to repair your car or have it bought back, or to sue Volkswagen for even more relief. But the choice to stand pat will come at a price—you’ll be foregoing the cash bonus and the sure deal of having your car bought back at its 2015 value, making up for a year’s worth of depreciation.
And if you ever want to sell or trade it in, you’ll be dealing a car that’s already worth way less than it was pre-scandal. The value for affected VW diesels has declined by an average of 8 percent compared to comparable cars, according to an analysis by CarGurus, with some models falling as much as 15 percent.
Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. This article originally appeared on Consumer Reports.