How to Donate a Car in Seattle

By Justine Depalma

  • Overview

    Donating a car to a Seattle charity will not only help the charity, but it will also provide you with a federal income tax deduction. Traditionally, a charity either uses donated cars in its programs or resells the cars to generate income. Finding the right charity will take a little legwork.
    • Step 1

      Find a charity. If your car is in good working order and is worth more than a few hundred dollars, look for a charity that will keep the car and use it in its program. Many smaller nonprofits will welcome a working car so think small. The website I Love Seattle lists Seattle-based charities.
    • Step 2

      Donate the car to a charity reseller if the car is not working or worth only a few hundred dollars. A reseller works with a number of different charities and allows you to choose which one will receive a portion of the sales proceeds from your vehicle. The reseller will send a copy of the sales paperwork for your tax records. The Car Program works with several Seattle-based charities in its resale program.


    • Step 3

      Take your car to a used car dealer for a written appraisal if the car is to be kept and used by the charity. Choose a car dealer that relies on the Kelley Blue Book for its appraisals. The Internal Revenue Service limits deductions to the sales price of the car or the fair market value of the car if kept by a charity. Keep the written appraisal with your tax records.
    • Step 4

      Deliver the car to the charity or reseller. Ownership transfers through the title so take that along so you can sign it over. File a notice of sale with the Washington Department of Motor Vehicles within five days of the donation. The notice of sale will release liability for parking tickets, accidents or property damage that happens with the donated car.
    • Skill: Moderately Easy
    • Tip: Take pictures of the car to prove it existed in case the Internal Revenue Service audits you.
    • Tip: Contact your tax preparation professional to verify Internal Revenue Service regulations for donating a car.
    • Tip: Ask the charity for a copy of a Internal Revenue Service letter of determination to make certain that it is a 501(c) (3) organization. Donations are only deductible if the charity is a 501(c) (3) entity.

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