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Used car prices have been riding historic highs since the COVID-19 pandemic. After peaking above $28,000 in 2022, the average price of a used car has come down slightly, but the simple fact remains: The vehicle sitting in your garage or driveway is probably worth more than ever.
Although it may be tempting to cash in and sell your used car while it commands a premium, you can gain some of the same benefits — and do some good — by donating it instead. Many charities accept used car donations in any condition and either resell the whole car or parts for much-needed cash or put it to work for a cause. The trick is just finding a good one that will keep you safe from scams.
Read on for our top five car donation choices, along with some other options to consider and some basic details about the process.
Top Recommended Charities For Car Donations
Habitat for Humanity
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Habitat for Humanity builds or restores homes for people who need shelter all over the world. Its Cars for Homes program was established in 2005 and has since accepted 120,000 car donations. Habitat accepts cars, trucks, boats, RVs, motorcycles, snowmobiles, farm equipment, and construction vehicles, and the organization will either recycle parts or resell the vehicles for cash.
Over the past five years, Habitat for Humanity has raised more than $30 million through car donations alone. According to the organization, between 84% and 87% of vehicle proceeds go directly to Habitat for Humanity. CharityWatch, a charity watchdog, gives the organization a B rating (on a scale of A+ to F), noting that it spends about 73% of its budget directly on its charitable programs. Habitat has also earned Guidestar’s Gold Seal of Transparency.
To donate your car to Habitat for Humanity, you can provide your information and schedule a pickup using the organization’s online form or by calling 1-877-277-4344.
Ronald McDonald House Charities
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Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) are well known for their work supporting families with seriously ill or injured children, providing them a place to stay while their child is receiving medical care. Many local RMHC chapters accept vehicle donations, reselling the vehicle or its parts for funds to support this mission.
CharityWatch gives RMHC an A grade for its management of funds, saying the organization uses 88% of its budget to fund its programs. RMHC has Guidestone’s Gold Star of Transparency.
RMHC accepts a wide range of vehicles, including cars, SUVs, ATVs, trucks, RVs, tractors, boats, and motorcycles.
To find out what your local chapter accepts and whether you can schedule a pickup, call 1-855-227-7435 or fill out an online donation form.
The Salvation Army
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The Salvation Army provides a wide range of services, including disaster relief, shelter, counseling, and veterans’ services. Vehicle donation programs vary by location, so it’s best to contact the Salvation Army at 1-800-728-7825 to see what’s accepted in your area.
Where vehicles are accepted, the proceeds go toward helping men and women in need in the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers. Pickups are available in some states, and you can get more details by filling out basic information online.
The Salvation Army’s work is divided into four territories across the U.S., and all are rated at a B+ or better on CharityWatch. The organization is Gold Star Certified by Guidestone.
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Aside from running massive donation centers throughout the country, Goodwill focuses on providing vocational services to help participants overcome barriers and find employment. The charity sells all donated vehicles and uses the proceeds to support these ends.
CharityWatch gives Goodwill Industries an A grade for its financial management, noting that the organization uses 87% of its budget to run programs. Amazingly, Goodwill only spends $2 for every $100 it raises. Goodwill Industries International has Guidestone’s Platinum Certification for Transparency.
Goodwill accepts cars, boats, motorcycles, RVs, trailers, ATVs, and buses, but you can’t drop them off at your local donation center. To schedule a pickup, call 1-855-534-3830 or fill out a donation form online.
Canine Companions For Independence
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Canine Companions for Independence is a unique charity that provides service dogs for adults, children, and veterans with disabilities. The organization also provides facility dogs to assist workers in healthcare, criminal justice, and educational settings.
Some of this work is funded by car donations throughout the U.S. Canine Companions accepts cars, trucks, motorcycles, RVs, and many other vehicles, and the nonprofit offers free pickup service, usually within 24–72 hours. To start the donation process, fill out the online form or call 1-866-398-4483.
Canine Companions has a B grade with CharityWatch, which states that the organization allocates 68% of its budget toward programs. It has Guideston’s Platinum Certification for Transparency.
Specialized Charitable Programs
The above charities are some of the most reputable programs in the country, but they’re not your only option for making an impact with your vehicle donation. The following programs accept cars, and the funds go toward specialized causes:
- Special Olympics: Car donations go toward the Special Olympics’ unique mission to make sports more inclusive by providing training and competitions for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Enter your vehicle information online to get started.
- American Cancer Society: Funds raised through the Cars For a Cure program go towards cancer research, advocacy, and patient support services. Fill out the online form to start your donation.
- Car Talk Vehicle Donation Program: This program, borne out of the popular National Public Radio show, “Car Talk,” supports public radio stations through car donations. Start your donation online.
- CARE USA: The Cars for CARE program contributes to CARE USA’s mission to fight global poverty. Complete the online donation form to get started.
How Car Donations Work
Most charities make the process of donating a car as easy and painless as possible. Free pickup and towing are usually available, and the charity will often handle the necessary paperwork for title transfer.
Once the charitable organization has possession of the vehicle, it will typically resell it for close to fair market value and use the proceeds to fund its mission. In some cases, nonprofits might use the vehicle for their work, such as providing transportation or deliveries. Many charities also accept cars that no longer work, which they can either repair and resell or scrap for parts value. Regardless of the details, used cars can be a valuable source of funding and support for important humanitarian efforts and social programs.
Aside from supporting a cause of your choice, donating a car to charity may also bring significant tax benefits. You’ll need to itemize your deductions to take advantage of this, so keep that in mind before donating. Be sure you also confirm that the charity is a legitimate 501(c)(3) that can accept tax-deductible donations.
If you plan to claim the car is worth more than $500, you’ll need a written receipt, which any legitimate charity should provide. You’ll usually receive this after the charity has sold the vehicle, as you can only claim up to the sales price the charity ultimately fetches for the car. If the organization opts to use the vehicle or sells it for significantly less than it’s worth, you can claim the fair market value on your tax return.
How To Choose A Charity
If you’re ready to donate your car, you’ve got plenty of options. However, not all offers are legitimate, and it’s important to do your due diligence before you donate. The charities listed here all all reputable, but you can explore many other options and causes of your choice online.
As you do your research, look into the organization’s mission and track record, and check sites like CharityWatch and Guidestar to understand its transparency practices and funds management. Contact the charity and ask questions about how much of the funds it will receive, what other organizations will benefit, and how much of the money will go directly toward providing social services.
It’s also important to find a charity that matches your values and interests. With so many nonprofits and mission statements out there, take your time to find one that fits something you care about so you can feel good about supporting the cause. And, finally, if you plan to take a tax deduction, be sure the charity is an official 501(c)(3) organization.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Should I Consider When Choosing A Charity For Car Donation?
Before you donate, research the charity’s mission and check with watchdog agencies to be sure you’re comfortable with how it uses its money and who else benefits from donations. If you want to take a tax deduction, confirm that the organization is a 501(c)(3), and be sure to get a receipt for any vehicle donation worth more than $500.
Are All Car Donations Tax-Deductible?
No. To be tax-deductible, the donation must go toward a recognized 501(c)(3) organization. Additionally, you must itemize your deductions on your tax return.
How Does The Car Donation Process Work?
Typically, you can contact a charity online or by phone to set up a donation, and it will send out someone to pick up the vehicle. Many charities will even tow away vehicles that won’t run free of charge. You’ll usually receive a tax receipt after the company sells the vehicle or commissions it for internal use.
Can You Donate A Car That Doesn’t Run?
Yes, many charities will accept vehicles that don’t run. They’ll either repair the vehicle to use or resell it, or they will sell the scrap parts to earn funds for their mission.
What Should I Do With My License Plates When Donating A Car?
In most cases, you should remove the plates before you donate the vehicle, as plates are typically not transferable. Check the laws in your state to be sure.
Can You Donate A Car With A Lien On It?
Titles cannot be transferred with a lien, as this usually means your lender still has a claim to the vehicle. To release the lien, you’ll need to pay off your loan in full and file any necessary paperwork with your state vehicle registration agency. Once you receive a title without a lien, you can proceed with the donation.