If you have an old car cluttering your driveway or garage, the idea of donating it to charity may be very attractive. After all, you get to help out a worthy cause and get the vehicle out of your life. That can certainly be a win-win.
However, if you are thinking about making a donation, you need to make sure it’s the best choice for you. Then, you can explore the steps to ensure that the effort you’ll need to put in is worth what you get out.
The Pros and Cons of Donating a Car
Before you start exploring how you can give a vehicle to charity, it’s smart to consider whether it is the right move for you. There are pros and cons of donating a car, and those could impact your decision.
The Pros of Vehicle Donations
One of the biggest positives of giving your car to charity is intangible. You get the benefit of knowing that you are helping someone in need, and that can be wonderful.
Additionally, you could receive a tax break for your donation. To access this benefit, you must select a qualified organization. Further, you’ll need to itemize your deductions and exceed the standard deduction amount. Otherwise, you won’t see any tax-related gain from making the donation.
Another benefit is the ability to get rid of an unwanted vehicle that you would otherwise have trouble selling. This usually includes cars that would cost more to get up and running than they are worth fixed. Some charities will accept wrecked or junk vehicles that don’t run, as long as there is some value in the car.
The Cons of Vehicle Donations
When you donate a car, that decision comes with a mountain of paperwork. You have to transfer the title and provide any required documents to the charity that’s related to the vehicle.
Further, you’ll need to fill out additional tax forms. Gathering information about the car’s fair market value may also be necessary, particularly if you want to claim it as a deduction.
Depending on the condition of your car, you might lose out on a money-making opportunity by choosing to donate. If you could sell the car for a higher amount than the deduction is worth, you can end up with cash in your pocket. Even junk cars may be sellable as scrap, so there may be a chance to get some money from vehicles that don’t run, too. While it does take effort to sell a car, it’s an avenue you should explore.
Additionally, you typically can’t donate a car without a clean title. This means, if you are still paying off the vehicle, you can’t donate it.
Further, if your lender’s information is still on the title, you’ll need to get that removed. While some lenders handle this automatically after your last payment, some don’t. You may have to contact the lender and ask for proof that your loan is paid. Then, you’ll need to work with your local department of motor vehicles to remove their information from the title before you can move forward.
How to Give Your Old Car to Charity
If you decide that donating your vehicle is the right move, then you’ll need to start by finding a suitable charity.
Not all charities accept cars, but there are quite a few that do. For example, Habitat for Humanity and Goodwill welcome vehicle donations, and have locations in most areas of the country. However, they are certainly not the only ones.
You can begin by performing an internet search to find potential organizations, but you need to exercise caution as you do. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of car donation charity scams out there. This means you need to be diligent about verifying the authenticity of any non-profit you may consider.
Once you have a few possibilities in mind, you can perform a search through the IRS to make sure they are a recognized charity. This is vital if you want the tax deduction. However, you don’t want to stop there.
Next, you’ll want to find some reviews about the charity. Organizations keep varying amounts of their donations for managing their operating expenses, so your donation will go further to help people in need with some groups than it will with others. Consider searching for the charity on Give (which is affiliated with the Better Business Bureau), Charity Navigator, or Charity Watch to learn more about the organization before you move forward with them.
Explore the Donations Process
Once you select a charity, you’ll need to explore their donation process. Each organization may handle donating a car differently, so it’s important to review their requirements.
For example, you need to find out if they will pick up the vehicle or if you need to bring it to them. If your car doesn’t run, having it towed can be expensive, so make sure you figure this out in advance.
Then, be ready to provide certain pieces of information. For example, you’ll need to provide the organization with your name, contact info, and details about the vehicle.
The length of this portion of the process can vary, though most charities are pretty quick to choose whether or not to accept your car.
So Should You Donate a Car to Charity?
Ultimately, there are pros and cons of donating a car, but it can be worth exploring. It gives you a chance to help an area organization and people and need while simultaneously eliminating an old vehicle from your life.
Just make sure you thoroughly research any charities you are considering. Additionally, explore alternatives (like selling the vehicle) as they could provide more value. Even if you want the car to go to a charitable cause, if you can sell it for more than the organization would make on the vehicle, you can always donate the money instead. That way, they get a bigger donation, and you get a bigger deduction, creating a win-win for everyone.
What pros and cons did you encounter when donated your old car to charity? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
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