What Paperwork Is Needed to Donate a Vehicle?

By Jeannie Knudson

  • Overview

    When an individual donates a vehicle to a charity or non-profit organization, they need to complete and retain the proper paperwork for legal reasons, tax preparation and personal records. The type of paperwork needed to donate a vehicle differs, depending on how much the vehicle is worth, whether the charitable organization sells or uses the vehicle, and ever-changing tax laws on donated items and charitable contributions.
  • Car Title

    When donating a vehicle to a charity, a person must have the title to legally prove and transfer ownership. If a vehicle title is lost, individuals can get a certified replacement copy by contacting their local Department of Motor Vehicles or County Tax Assessor's office.
  • Charity Documentation

    After choosing to donate a vehicle, the charity will provide a written form documenting the donation. The paperwork will state that the vehicle was a donation and not a sale. The vehicle donation paper may also include an estimate of the vehicle's value, unless a written appraisal has been done by a qualified appraiser.


  • Appraisals

    For tax purposes, any vehicle that is valued at more than $5,000, requires a written appraisal before an individual can claim a charitable tax deduction for the vehicle. The appraisal must be written by a qualified appraiser that meets the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) standards for education or work experience related to appraising vehicles.
  • Tax Deductions

    If the charitable organization receiving the vehicle sells it for the proceeds, individuals should receive a copy of the sale. Tax claims on donated vehicles sold by the charity depend on the gross proceeds from the sale. Retaining a copy of this paperwork will help evaluate how much of a deduction a person is eligible for when filing taxes. Charities use fair market value when a vehicle is sold and fair market value can vary depending on the condition of the car and whether any repair work was needed prior to the sale.
  • Legal Liabilities

    After donating a vehicle, individuals should contact their local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and notify them of the donation. The DMV will furnish paperwork documenting the transaction, helping to avoid any legal liabilities for the person donating the vehicle.
  • Considerations

    To make the transaction as smooth as possible, charitable organizations will often assist a person with needed paperwork when donating a vehicle. But, the burden of having the right paperwork come tax time still falls upon the person donating the vehicle. Individuals should check with the IRS for current tax forms needed to declare a car donation as a charitable deduction
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