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How to Donate a Vehicle

Updated on September 12, 2012
Donate an old vehicle
Donate an old vehicle | Source

When my stepfather passed away a few years ago, he left behind an old minivan. A painter by trade, his van was used to haul all of his equipment, ladders, etc., when he went to do a painting job. The van wasn't in the best shape, so we didn't think it would garner much if we sold it. So, we decided to donate it to an organization that benefits veterans. Besides getting a tax deduction, we felt that he would have been happy with that decision. Plus, they came to the house and picked the van up! It was easy and we felt really good about the choice.

Where to Donate a Vehicle

When determining where to donate your car, it is important to research the charitable organization's policies regarding vehicle donations. Once you have decided what cause you would like to support and have identified the charitable organization, call the charity and get the following information:

  • Does the charity accept vehicle donations?
  • Do they benefit from vehicle donations?
  • What percentage of the vehicle's value goes directly to their cause?
  • Do they pick up vehicle donations?

If the charity does not benefit from vehicle donations, ask them if they can recommend an organization that does accept vehicles that supports the same or similar causes.

Donating is Easy!
Donating is Easy! | Source

How to Donate a Car

In order to donate a vehicle to charity, you will need to have a clear title on the vehicle, free of any liens. If you have that, you are ready to donate!

First, consider how you will get the vehicle to the charity. Is it drivable? If so, you can drive it to the location they specify. This will save the charity the expense of paying to have it towed. If it isn't drivable, schedule a pickup with the charity.

If at all possible, avoid middlemen and donate the vehicle directly to a charity. Charity brokers often take a cut of the donation away from the charity. If the charity you select accepts vehicles, donate directly to them.

To donate the vehicle, you will need to sign the title over to the charity. Take the title with you when you drop off the car. If you don't have the title, apply for a new one with your state's bureau of motor vehicles (BMV) and don't try to donate the vehicle until you have the title in hand. At the time of the donation, formally sign the title over to the charity (ask them what name to use), and notify the BMV of the transfer. It is critical that YOU fill in the new owner on the title to make sure it goes to the charity. Charities rarely keep vehicles, but instead sell them at auction. They will need to have the title correct and in hand in order to benefit from the sale.

Used Car Donations

Car Keys
Car Keys | Source

Tax Deduction for Donation

When you donate your car, be sure to get a tax receipt from the charitable organization. The tax receipt should contain the year, make, model, and VIN of the donated vehicle, as well as your information and the information about the charity.

If the vehicle is worth more than $5,000, you will need to get an independent appraisal to determine the value. This is a critical step, as you will be held responsible for any issues with the value of the vehicle, not the charity.

The IRS requires Form 8283 to be submitted with your annual income tax return in order to receive the deduction. Check with your tax adviser to make sure you have all the forms you need to claim the deduction on your taxes.

Above all else, be sure to keep a very detailed paper trail of your donation. Save all documents, make note of all phone conversations, and save all forms and receipts. In case you are audited, these will all come in handy to substantiate your donation.

Tax Deductions are Available
Tax Deductions are Available | Source

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    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

      I actually donated a car several years ago - it ran beautifully, but the interior had some damage. This was right before the change in tax laws, so I got the Blue Book value for a write-off, and it was a good feeling to know it had helped people.

      Voted up!

    • kittyjj profile image

      Ann Leung 4 years ago from San Jose, California

      I donated my first car after about 10 years of having it. It was still in good condition, but I just wanted to get a new car. So I donated it to Goodwill. But the bad thing was that the person who took my car got parking violation tickets and the city kept on going after me. I checked with DMV and the record had the new owner's name already. I called the city, but they insisted that I bring in the proof. I ended up taking a day off from work in order to get the record straight with the city. Not sure if I want to donate my car again in the future.

    • Amy Gillie profile image
      Author

      Amy Gillie 4 years ago from Indiana

      Kittyjj - oh no! That's a bad situation, and I'm sorry it happened to you! Most charities do sell the cars, often at low prices, so there is a possibility that this can happen. I'm glad the DMV was up to date, but sorry you had to contact the city. At least it was all straightened out!

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