Donating your used car to charity is a convenient way to dispose of an old vehicle while reaping tax benefits.
According to New York-based salvage company Cash Auto Salvage, charities recycle nonworking vehicles for their scrap metal and parts, potentially bringing in a few hundred dollars for a charity. But according to vehicle paint meter manufacturer FenderSplendor, working vehicles bring in even more. Charities sell them at auction for anywhere from $300 to $3,500 on average.
Plus, donating your vehicle lets you skip the hassle of trying to sell the car yourself while still allowing you the financial benefits of tax deduction. In fact, the most challenging part of car donations is finding the right charity to donate to.
Best Places to Donate Your Car to Charity
When choosing a charity, there are some things you should know about how it can use your donation and potential pitfalls to avoid.
- Most charities don’t handle the vehicle donation process themselves, which requires extra money and personnel. Instead, they often contract with vehicle auction houses or car donation services, which take a cut of the sale price and send the proceeds to the charity.
- Scams are prevalent in the car donation industry. Scammers often impersonate charity-aligned vehicle auction houses and deduct extremely high expenses. They then give only a tiny fraction of the proceeds, which can be as low as 13%, to a charity.
- Costs and fees arise during the donation process, and it deducts those from the gross sale price (potentially affecting your tax deduction). These include free pickup and towing costs, title transfer fees, and auction or dismantling fees. But the best car donation programs give at least 70% of the sale price to the charity.
- In addition to checking well-researched best-of lists, use a site like Charity Watch or Charity Navigator to research the most efficient charities.
- Many charities that accept cars for donation take any kind of vehicle, including recreational vehicles, campers and trailers, motor homes, boats, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, and jet skis. Some even take unusual vehicles like tractors or airplanes. So if you have one of these to donate, call ahead to see if the charity accepts them.
1. American Diabetes Association
The American Diabetes Association works to prevent and cure diabetes as well as improve the lives of those with diabetes.
After you donate your vehicle, it works with a car donation service to sell your donated vehicle at auction. The proceeds fund its programs. If your vehicle isn’t running, the association recycles it for the value of its scrap metal and parts.
To donate your vehicle, call the American Diabetes Association at 800-ADA-6570 (800-232-6570) or fill out the online form on the car donation page of its website. A representative will contact you to pick up your vehicle for free within three to four days.
If your donated vehicle sells for more than $500, within 30 days of the sale, the American Diabetes Association will send you an acknowledgment letter containing the vehicle identification number (VIN), date of sale, gross proceeds of the sale, and the date of your donation, as required by the IRS.
2. Cars for CARE
CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere) is an international nonprofit that provides emergency relief and works to end poverty and achieve social justice. This includes a specific focus on lifting up women and girls around the world.
When you donate your car, truck, motorcycle, boat, snowmobile, trailer, or RV to its Cars for CARE Vehicle Donation Program, proceeds from the sale go directly toward funding its programs.
For example, your vehicle donation could bring in enough revenue to feed a family for a year, provide clean water and soap to two communities, help 20 moms-to-be birth healthy babies, or fund a woman-led business.
To donate your vehicle, fill out the online donation form with some basic information about your car or call CARE at 888-755-5452. Car Donation Wizard, a vehicle donation management company, handles the transaction. It schedules a free pickup within 24 to 48 hours.
After a few weeks (after your vehicle sells), you’ll get a receipt to use for deducting the donation on your taxes.
3. Car Talk Vehicle Donation Program
The Car Talk Vehicle Donation Program uses the proceeds from the sale or recycling of your vehicle to support your local NPR station. NPR is an independent nonprofit media organization that explores news and human-interest stories both locally and nationally.
The Car Talk Vehicle Donation Program is a legacy of the Car Talk public radio show. A duo of brothers hosted the show and answered listeners’ weekly questions about cars until one died in 2014. But the vehicle donation program continues as a way to show support to public radio.
Call the program at 877-215-0227 or fill out the online form on the charity’s website to donate your vehicle. A representative will contact you to schedule a convenient free pickup time within one to three business days. You don’t even need to be there as long as the charity has already received the title or you’ve left it for them in the glove compartment.
Once your donation is complete — the charity sells your donated vehicle at auction or recycles it for scrap metal or parts — you receive either a sales receipt or IRS form 1098-C, depending on the sale price of your vehicle, within 30 days of the sale.
4. Charitable Adult Rides & Services
Charitable Adult Rides & Services (CARS) is a nonprofit vehicle donation service that serves other charities. That makes it a unique hybrid of car sales service mixed with charitable organization. It also provides meals and transportation to seniors through a program called On the Go.
The service allows you to donate your vehicle to any charity you choose, whether or not your charity of choice is listed as a partner organization CARS already works with. They also accept any type of vehicle.
Once you donate your vehicle, CARS works with more than 400 vendors throughout the U.S. to sell it. These include auctions, private buyers, and salvage yards. The organization chooses the outlet it thinks will get the highest selling price, thereby maximizing your chosen charity’s donation and your tax deduction.
To donate your vehicle, choose a charity to donate to, complete the online donation form or call the nonprofit at 855-500-RIDE (7433) and schedule a free pickup time convenient for you. In some cases, CARS can pick up your vehicle as soon as the day you call.
You receive a donation receipt from the representative who picks up your vehicle. Within 30 days of the vehicle’s sale, you’ll receive a thank you letter from the receiving charity if your vehicle sells for less than $500. If it sells for more than $500, CARS will also send you a 1098-C.
5. Donate A Car
Donate A Car isn’t a charity in itself. It’s a vehicle donation service offered by the North American auto auction company Insurance Auto Auctions Donation Division. It picks up and auctions off your car and allows you to choose which of its 300 charity partners receives the profits of the sale. Unlike third-party scammers to be wary of, Donate A Car gives 70% or more of the sale price to its partner charities.
Partner charities include organizations like:
- Animal charities
- Charities that focus on curing or supporting individuals with specific diseases, such as lupus, diabetes, and cancer
- General humanitarian charities, such as the Red Cross
Visit their website to pick your cause. Then fill out a donation form with your contact information and the vehicle you’d like to donate. Or call 800-237-5714. A representative from Donate A Car will pick it up for free as soon as the next day, and you don’t need to be there when it happens.
About five days after a representative picks up your vehicle, Donate A Car will mail you a receipt. And you will receive a Form 1098-C within 30 days after the sale of your vehicle if it sells for more than $500.
With more than 3,200 thrift stores around the country, Goodwill is one of the most popular places to donate used household goods. It may not be the first place many think of when it comes to donating their used vehicles. But Goodwill gladly accepts donated cars and virtually every type of vehicle, including commercial and fleet vehicles.
As with the used clothing and household essentials it sells in its thrift stores, Goodwill uses the proceeds from the sale of donated cars for employment training and job-placement programs. Goodwill focuses specifically on serving those with barriers to employment, including individuals with disabilities, those with limited work history, recipients of government support programs, those with language barriers, and those who’ve experienced corporate downsizing.
To donate your vehicle, fill out the online form on Goodwill’s car donation website or call 866-233-8586 to arrange a convenient time for free pickup. After it sells your vehicle, Goodwill will mail your tax-deductible donation receipt or a Form 1098-C — depending on the vehicle’s sale price — within 30 days of the sale.
7. Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization that provides affordable housing for those in need in the U.S. and worldwide. Donating a car to Habitat for Humanity helps fund their programs, including the purchase of the materials it uses to build and repair homes for lower-income families.
Habitat for Humanity, which uses Car Donation Wizard, a car donation management company, to resell donated vehicles, boasts one of the largest rates of proceeds from the sale of vehicle donations going directly to their programs at 78% to 86%.
And vehicles that aren’t suitable for sale at auction go to salvage yards, which compress them into steel beams used to build houses. Discover more on the charity’s car donation frequently asked questions page.
To donate your car or truck, use their online form. To donate any other type of vehicle, call the organization at 877-277-4344. A representative will pick up your vehicle for free. Within 30 days after the sale of your vehicle, Habitat for Humanity will send you an acknowledgment letter with the sale price that you can file with your tax return.
8. National Kidney Foundation
The National Kidney Foundation works to increase awareness of kidney disease. It also provides support and guidance for kidney patients and their families and funds research for treatment and prevention.
After you donate your car, the organization sells it at auction to fund its programs. If your vehicle isn’t running, the foundation has it recycled for parts.
To donate your vehicle, call the National Kidney Foundation at 800-488-CARS (2277) or fill out the form on the donor page of their website. Then simply schedule a free pickup time that’s most convenient for you. It can pick up most vehicles within 24 hours.
You’ll receive a proof of donation letter within two weeks of donating your vehicle. And within 30 days of the vehicle’s sale, you’ll receive either a sales receipt or Form 1098-C, depending on the sale price, to file with your tax return.
9. The Arc
The Arc is the largest national community-based organization that advocates for and serves people of all ages with intellectual or developmental disabilities and their families. Its extensive list of programs and services centers around job training, supported employment, transportation services, transition planning, and early intervention. They also include health services, travel programs, funding for technology development, and even assistance with legal defense.
Its vehicle donation program is run by Melwood, another nonprofit organization that provides job training and employment to people with disabilities. The Melwood Charity Car Donation Center handles vehicle donations from the initial donor contact to the disbursement of the sale proceeds to the charity.
To donate your vehicle, fill out the online form or call 877-MELWOOD (877-635-9663) to arrange a convenient free pickup time. You don’t have to be there for a representative to pick up your vehicle. It can pick up most vehicles within 72 hours.
Melwood will provide you with three separate receipts. You receive the first one from the towing company when they pick up your vehicle. Once the towing company notifies Melwood the vehicle is in its possession, Melwood sends an official letter thanking you for your donation. After the sale of your vehicle, you’ll receive a Form 1098-C noting the tax-deductible sale price for your records.
10. Volunteers of America
The nonprofit organization Volunteers of America cares for individuals in numerous ways.
It provides support for at-risk youth, individuals with disabilities, and homeless people. It also provides basic needs like food and clothing for those in poverty or otherwise without resources, such as people who’ve gone through natural disasters.
Additionally, it provides access to mental health services, including substance abuse services. And homeless people, veterans, and formerly incarcerated individuals can get housing assistance through the organization.
To donate your vehicle, call the organization at 833-300-5737 or visit the donor page on their website and fill out the online form. A representative will pick up your vehicle for free at a time convenient for you, and within 30 days of the sale of your vehicle, you’ll receive a donation receipt for tax-deduction purposes.
11. Wheels For Wishes
The car donation program Wheels For Wishes benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which works to grant the wishes of children diagnosed with critical illnesses. As stated in the charity’s mission, granting these wishes can be the spark of hope that gives children and their families the strength to persevere during a difficult time.
To donate your vehicle, fill out the online form or call 888-737-5808 to schedule a free pickup time convenient for you. Immediately after you donate your vehicle, Wheels For Wishes mails you a receipt of donation for your vehicle. Within 30 days after the sale of your vehicle, you’ll receive a Form 1098-C detailing the sale price of your vehicle.
12. Your Local High School or Vocational College
Donating a car directly to a local high school or vocational college provides a test subject for an auto shop class. For schools that have these programs, donated vehicles are highly valuable for learning. But it requires doing some research to discover which schools accept donations.
Start by contacting the administration office at each of your local high schools or vocational schools and asking if they have an auto shop program. Then determine if your car is eligible for donation by speaking directly with the shop teacher or program director. Note that some programs only use American cars.
Next, ensure the school is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit if you want to take a tax deduction. Per the IRS, you can only deduct charitable contributions to 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations.
Then make arrangements to get the car to the school. If the car works, you can drive it over. If not, one drawback to this donation method is you must pay to have it towed.
Transfer the title over to the school, making sure to deliver the title and keys to the person accepting responsibility for the vehicle. Then wait to receive a receipt for your donation. Someone from the school will prepare and send you a receipt detailing the value of your donation.
Alternatively, you can browse established car donation websites like Cars2Charities to locate educational nonprofits, including high schools and colleges. That lets you skip the DIY method altogether and allow Cars2Charities’ parent company — Riteway Charity Services Inc., a highly reputable car donation program — to handle the donation process for you, including picking up your car for free and handling any title issues, even if a local school isn’t on the partner charity list.
However, going this route means it will sell your car at auction or to a salvage yard for its scrap metal and parts and donate the cash to the school rather than the car.
Donating motor vehicles to a charity isn’t quite as simple as dropping off a bag of used clothing or household goods. There are detailed laws that govern car donations. Some quick things to understand before you donate are:
- Laws regarding title transfers for vehicle donations vary from state to state, but the charity you choose should be able to help answer any questions you have.
- If you plan to deduct your donation from your taxes, familiarize yourself with the IRS rules for vehicle donations. You must keep specific paperwork, such as the charity’s tax receipt, to file with your tax return and fill out different tax forms depending on the amount of your deduction. Check the IRS website for more details and read IRS publication 4303, a Donor’s Guide to Vehicle Donation.
- The value of the car may not be the amount of the deduction. If it sells for less than $500, you can deduct the fair market value — up to $500, in which case you’ll likely only receive a receipt of donation from the charity. If your vehicle sells for more than $500, you’re allowed to deduct the sale price, and the charity will send you either a Form 1098-C or a letter of acknowledgment to file with your tax return.
For more information, see our article on donating a car to charity.