Donor Image-01.pngWhen people think of donating to charity, what comes to mind first tends to be a trip to their local clothes donation center. Clothes, furniture, books, and money are all common things to donate, but car donation is a little more unusual. When people think of getting rid of an old car, donating it is not the first thing on their minds.

However, there are many benefits of donating a car to charity – if you know how to choose the right organization.

Whom Can You Donate a Car to?

There is a simple reason why most charities accept car donation: cars are expensive, and they can sell the vehicles for a profit. These funds then go to the charity's projects or to paying the salaries of those who work at the charity. This is the most common kind of car donation; however, is it the most beneficial way to donate a car?

Considering all the facts, there is an alternative way of donating cars that can be better for your community and, after tax breaks, your pocketbook as well. Vehicles for Change, located in Maryland, accepts car donations with the intent of awarding these cars to lower-income families. This helps families empower themselves with independence and the opportunities that come from having access to personal transportation.

Who Benefits the Most from a Donated Vehicle?

While any charity might accept a car, when you're looking into donating a car to charity, you probably want your vehicle to do the most good. With this in mind, the way Vehicles for Change handles car donation is one of the best uses of donated vehicles available. Lower-income families benefit from new independence and opportunities. You benefit from tax deductions, and your community benefits from having one less struggling family. Most of the recipients of cars from Vehicles for Change use their new vehicles to give back to their communities in volunteer work.

How Do Lower-Income Families Benefit?

Donating a car to charity can seem like a roundabout way of helping lower-income families. After all, people in poverty need food, water, and money. A car can seem like a non-solution when it comes to these basic needs; however a vehicle can be extremely valuable.

Many lower-income families have the financial means to purchase basic necessities, but not the transportation. Public transit in most places in this country is unreliable. Many rural and suburban families have no access at all to a public transit system. This leaves them with only walking or possibly biking to run the errands they need and get to work. Many primary earners in lower-income families must work for an hourly wage. If they are unable to get to work on foot or by bike because of weather, illness, injury, or exhaustion, they don't get paid for that day. This can have a severe impact on a family's financial stability.

Even families with access to transit face inconvenience when performing basic tasks necessary to care for themselves and their children. Grocery shopping becomes a much more difficult task when heavy grocery bags must be lifted onto a bus. The trip takes longer, the physical strain is greater, and fewer groceries can be purchased, meaning grocery trips must be made more often. Given how many hours the primary earners in a family must spend at work and how exhausting it is to leave and come home without a vehicle, this is very hard on quality of life. For many, sleep is sacrificed. This leads to stress and other health complications.

Many lower-income earners are also qualified for better jobs than they have. However, without cars, they don't have access to these opportunities. What's more, the exhaustion, stress, and sometimes lateness or absence they bring to the job as a result of lacking reliable transportation means they don't receive the promotions they are often qualified for.

Many of these families do have the financial means to pay for the gas, insurance, and general maintenance a car requires. However, the initial cost of buying a vehicle is too high to be feasible. Taking a loan is not an option for some, as financial institutions can designate them ineligible due to past bad credit or current low income.

All of this takes a great financial toll on a family. This is where Vehicles for Change comes in.

Since 1999, Vehicles for Change has sold 5,000 vehicles to families in need at a reduced price. 99% of these vehicles were donated by the public. Most of these cars were purchased by needy families for under $1,000. The benefits these donated vehicles have given families are life-changing. 75% of vehicle recipients reported missing fewer work days. Within the first year of owning the new vehicle, 75% were also able to get a new, better job or increase their earnings at current positions. The average yearly increase was $7,000.

The quality of life was also significantly improved by these donated vehicles. The daily commute of recipients was decreased by an enormous 90 minutes. As a result of this and the financial benefits, 93% self-reported decreased levels of stress – and this was just one of the many health benefits. 87% said they were able to participate in activities specifically for their health, like exercising. 98% were able to take their children to the doctor.

Families were also able to give back their communities as a result of their new vehicles. 100% of recipients took their children to after school activities. 55% volunteered in the community with their new free time.

The benefits of donating a car to charity can therefore be far-reaching when it's a charity like Vehicles for Change.

The Documents Needed for Donating a Carrecipient image-01.png

Donating a car to charity is simple and doesn't take long. Vehicles for Change does most of the work for you. While requirements vary state-by-state, in many cases only one document is absolutely required: the title to the vehicle. The vehicle's title must be transferred to Vehicles for Change for the donation to be legal and to be eligible for tax purposes.

Vehicles for Change needs the donated car's original title, and receiving a copy is easy. Simply contact your local DMV. In many states, the entire process of obtaining a copy of your vehicle's title can be done online, and all you need is the car's VIN and title number. These can both be found on the vehicle's registration card.

When you fill out the title for car donation, be sure to get it right the first time. The DMV won't accept a document scribbled on or with white-out. To transfer ownership, write “Vehicles for Change” under the “buyer” line on the vehicle's title. Under “seller,” print and sign your own name. If two people are listed on the title, both must print and sign their name. Be sure to scan the document so you have a copy for your records.

If financing was a part of purchasing your vehicle, a lien release will most likely be required by Vehicles for Change. The lending institution that financed the purchase must send a hard copy of a letter on their company’s letterhead confirming you have paid in full for the vehicle. It must include the details of the car, like make, model, etc.

Different states have different regulations, but none of the necessary documents for donating a car to charity are overly complex. Anybody can donate their car.

The Process for Donating a Car

Donating a car to Vehicles for Change is simple, and the organization handles most of the heavy lifting. The first step you must take as a donor is filling out a simple form online. This form typically takes less than ten minutes to finish, as it only requires basic information about yourself and the vehicle. You can submit the form online, or by fax, mail, or email, and regardless of your choice, your information is kept confidential.

Once the paperwork is processed, Vehicles for Change will contact you to set up a time to pick up the vehicle. Usually, pick-up can be scheduled within 3 business days; you meet them at that scheduled pick-up time with the documents and the keys, and Vehicles for Change takes away the vehicle.

You will then receive a tax receipt so you can declare the car donation on your taxes. Depending on the kind and condition of your vehicle, the deductions you receive can be quite large.

Donating a Car to Charity: The Tax Side

Vehicles for Change can offer significant tax deductions on your donated vehicle because rather than selling the cars for profit, the organization donates the cars themselves. Your tax deductions depend on the condition and kind of your vehicle, but regardless of these factors, you can rest assured you will get a very good tax break by donating to Vehicles for Change.

If the car you donate is in almost full working condition with only minor repairs necessary, you can deduct the car's fair market value from your taxes. These are vehicles that can be fixed for under $1000 to provide at least 2 years of reliable service (with reasonable maintenance). In most cases, these vehicles have fewer than 150,000 miles on them and are 10-12 years old, and they are given to families in need.

Don't despair about donating a car to charity if your vehicle is in less than perfect condition. For cars needing greater upkeep but are basically in good condition, the organization's technicians still make repairs. The vehicle is then sold to the non-profit Freedom Wheels, a used car lot operated by Vehicles for Change. The profits from these vehicles go to repairing more cars to give to lower-income families. For these vehicles, the donor can deduct the fair market price from their taxes, minus the estimated cost of repairs.

Donating a car to charity can still be financially beneficial to you even if your car requires major repairs. These cars are auctioned off to one of Vehicles for Change's partners. As far as taxes, the donor can deduct the selling price of the car. This is typically 1/3 to ½ of the car's fair market value.

The upkeep luxury vehicles need to stay on the road isn't ideal for most lower-income families. If you donate a luxury car, you can deduct the selling price of the car from your taxes, which is typically equal to the car's fair market value.

Eligible Vehicles for Donation to a Charity

Almost all vehicles are eligible to be donated to Vehicles for Change. To find your eligibility for donating a car to charity, contact Vehicles for Change.

Helping Your Community with Donated Cars

Donating a car to Vehicles for Change offers great tax benefits. It also gives the opportunity to help your community. Look into donating a car to charity today.