Where to Donate a Car

By Chris Weiss

  • Overview

    Donating a car is a great solution to a common problem: what to do with an older vehicle that has little value or is a project to sell. You don't think it's worthwhile fixing the car up and don't want to spend the time and resources advertising the vehicle for fear it will be a futile effort. Donating a car will give some money to a charity while providing you with tax benefits. While the decision to donate is easy, the question of where to donate the can be more difficult to answer. You wonder, "Who really wants an old, junky car anyway?" Well, there are plenty of places that would love the donation.
  • Charity

    The first thing that you should consider, particularly if you intend to deduct the donation, is that you must donate your vehicle to a tax-exempt charity organization able to accept donations. Most of these organizations are registered as 501 (c) (3) with the IRS. To search through charities, click the link below to view IRS Publication 78. Your state should also have an office that regulates charities, most likely under the Attorney General or Secretary of State.
  • Religious Organizations

    Unlike charities, religious organizations are not required to register with the IRS and may not be listed in Publication 78. However, these organizations are still a legitimate charitable source to donate to for tax purposes. If you'd like to donate to your church, mosque, temple or synagogue it should be a fully deductable donation. If there's any question, ask the organization to show proof of their status or contact the IRS for further information.

  • Local or National

    Many charities accept car donations. There are many things that can be done with a vehicle. It can be sold so that the proceeds can be used by the charity, it can be used for transportation for charity operations or it can be given to low-income persons through charity programs. Some notable national car donation programs include the American Cancer Society's Cars for a Cure, the National Kidney Foundation's Kidney Cars and Habitat for Humanity's Cars for Homes program. Many local charities also accept car donations; determine a cause that you'd like to support and contact a few charities to see if they will accept your car.
  • Vehicle Condition

    Rules for donation vary from charity to charity. Some are happy to accept any vehicle, regardless of the shape its in. They may fix the vehicle or sell it for parts. Other charities only accept vehicles in fair or working condition. Discuss the condition of your car ahead of time to be sure that it will be accepted.
  • Third Parties

    Many third parties exist that accept donations on behalf of charity organizations. Essentially, they handle all the nuts and bolts of the donation and collect a fee while giving some of the money to the designated charity. While these organizations are often the easiest to find, and make the process easier for you, it's important to note that they are taking a part of the money from your donation. Be sure to find out how much of the money is being taken by the third party and how much is going to charity. In some cases, the third party may simply pay a flat fee to the charity and keep all additional money from the sale of your vehicle. In this case, you will lose out significantly on your deduction and your money will not really be used as you intended, but for the benefit of a third party. To avoid these problems, donate directly to a charity.
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