Donating A Car? Make Sure to Think Ahead

If you're thinking about donating a vehicle to charity, follow our simple tips to do it right.

Photo: Shutterstock

In a country with so many drivers, many people will eventually find themselves in possession of a car that they don’t need, and a lot of them will choose to donate it to charity. While doing so is generous and a great way to get rid of a car you don’t want, vehicles can actually be among the hardest things to donate. Luckily, people have been doing so for long enough that we’ve rounded up some handy tips to keep in mind if you choose to donate your vehicle.

Do your research

Before making a donation—whether it’s a car, cash, or stocks—be sure you know how the organization uses its money. Use resources like CharityNavigator and Guidestar to get that information. Many organizations will also post their IRS Form 990 on their website.

Do the paperwork right

Cars have somewhat complex ownership and you can just give them away like clothes. Titles and registrations have to be transferred to new owners, and while the rules can vary from state to state, typically the donor has to handle the registration transfer. If you’re donating to a charity that regularly accepts cars, they can probably help you.

Donate to a charity that can actually use the car

Organizations that use cars in their mission are a good choice, since they can probably put it directly to use. Think of organizations that deliver meals to senior citizens, youth centers, or animal rescue groups, for example. Charities that make a habit of accepting cars for other reasons are good, too, but donating a car to an organization that won’t need or use it may make a lot more work for them.

Find an organization that handles its own vehicle donations

Some organizations handle car donations through third parties, means that organization will get a smaller amount of money from your donation. Third-party fundraisers take a cut, sometimes a pretty deep one, of whatever they raise. If a charity is just going to sell the car but goes through a third party, they’re not going to get the most value, and your donation will partly go to paying somebody else.

Have you donated a vehicle? If so, do you have any other tips? Please share them in the comments.

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