HOW to DONATE a Car to BENEFIT Low Income Families

Donor Image-01.pngSince the economic crash of 2008, America has struggled to get its economy back on track. One of its successes lies in the millions of donations made to charitable organizations for low-income individuals and families. However, these families often need more than money. They seek physical resources that can help them access jobs, leisure activities, and other opportunities.

One of the best ways to provide such a resource is car donation, but many people don’t know how to donate a car. They also don’t understand how donating a car benefits a family. Vehicles for Change informs donors on how to donate a car and the many ways vehicle donation makes a difference.

How to Donate a Car

Vehicles for Change operates differently than some companies such as Goodwill, Make a Wish, or local food banks. Instead of targeting a specific group, Vehicles for Change casts a wide net. It’s also important to note that the organization aims to help families, as opposed to simply individuals. While there are certainly individuals who could benefit from affordable vehicle ownership, Vehicles for Change believes in empowering families and changing the cultural mindset of the low-income factions in our economy.

Donating a car through Vehicles for Change is simple, easy, and streamlined. In fact, it’s a simple three-step process. The first step involves completing the donation form. This takes less than 10 minutes and can be done in one of three ways (online, paper, or over the phone). This form asks for basic personal and vehicle information. Within 24 hours of completing this form, you will receive a confirmation.

After receiving confirmation from Vehicles for Change, you will be contacted to schedule a convenient pick-up appointment. These can typically be scheduled within three business days, and all towing is complimentary.

The third and final step involves actually meeting the tow truck for your scheduled appointment. When preparing your vehicle for pickup, you will need to have all keys, the signed tittle, and the lien release (if applicable) ready for the towing company. In return, you will be given a proof of donation slip that can be used to handle all insurance and tag cancellations.

The Tax Receipt

In accordance with IRS rules and regulations, you will need an official tax receipt to file an accurate and legal deduction. Vehicles for Change will provide you with a tax receipt within 30 days of the pickup date or sale date (if applicable) and, as a complimentary service, provides a 1098c for all donations over $500 in value.

Getting Maximum Value

When you donate a car to Vehicles for Change, you can rest assured everyone is getting the maximum possible value out of your vehicle – starting with you. While the majority of car donation programs send donated vehicles directly to the auction block and produce revenue only, Vehicles for Change attempts to recondition and repair as many vehicles as possible. This allows you, the donor, a chance to claim the full fair market value of your donation. Additionally, the experienced staff at Vehicles for Change inspects each donation individually to ensure the donor’s tax deduction is as high as possible.

The Four Categories

When you donate a vehicle to Vehicles for Change, it will land in one of four categories.

The first category is reserved for vehicles that can be easily reconditioned or repaired for under $1,000. These are vehicles that typically need minor cosmetic repairs or have very isolated maintenance needs. Cars in this category are typically 10-12 years old and have less than 150,000 miles on them. These cars are repaired and awarded to pre-qualified applicants at a below market price. This is the ideal category for donors, as they can then deduct the vehicle’s full fair market value.

The second category is for cars that need major repairs but are otherwise in good condition. For example, a five year old car that needs a new transmission but is gently used in every other aspect would be in the second category. These cars are repaired and sold through Freedom Wheels (Vehicles for Change’s retail used-car lot). The proceeds from these sales are then used to fund repairs for other vehicles that will be given to low-income families in need. In these situations, donors will receive the fair market value minus the cost of repair.

The third group is reserved for luxury cars that are in good condition. By rule, Vehicles for Change does not award luxury cars to applicants. This is simply because luxury cars require expensive upkeep to continue providing useful service. These cars are also sold through Freedom Wheels, and donors can deduct the selling price (which is usually around the fair market value).

The fourth and final group refers to cars that don’t meet the Vehicles for Change reliability standards. These are vehicles that would cost more than they’re worth to fix. These are given to an auction partner, and proceeds are used for repairing future vehicles. Deductions for category four vehicles are a little more complex and vary depending on the circumstances.

The Donation Checklist recipient image-01.png

Before arriving for your vehicle pick-up, Vehicles for Change suggests performing a donation checklist. This starts with an initial sweep of the vehicle. You will want to remove all personal items, including CDs from the CD player, EZ passes, garage door openers, insurance information, and papers that may be hidden in compartments and seatbacks.

Next, it’s time to prepare the vehicle’s title for donation. You need to take special care during this process, as the Department of Motor Vehicles is very strict about its requirements. Sign and print your name exactly as it appears on the title. If two individuals are on the title, you both need to sign and print exactly as your names appear. For the “buyer” blank, list Vehicles for Change as the buyer. As a note of caution, only fill in the buyer and seller fields. Any titles that contain errors, mistakes, scratched out information, or even white out will be denied. For your own personal records, make sure you copy and scan the signed title.

If your vehicle is being financed at the time of donation, you will need to obtain the vehicle’s lien release. Vehicles for Change must have both the lien release and vehicle title to claim full ownership.

Car Donation Program

While you really only need to know how to donate a car, it can be helpful to understand what happens after you donate your car. Many people find it comforting to know that all recipients of Vehicles for Change cars are prescreened and prequalified.

Applicants must meet certain criteria. Every applicant must have a current job (minimum of 30 hours a week) or verifiable job offer. Applicants are asked to prove they are insurable and have a valid state driver’s license. Additionally, drivers cannot have any other existing vehicle in their household and must be drug-free with no criminal background or history of DUI/DWIs.

Applicants must be able to afford the initial fees (taxes, tags, and title), as well as ongoing costs (fuel, insurance, and minor repairs). If an applicant is under the age of 25, he or she must have children to be awarded a vehicle.

The VFC Program

The program is reserved for low-income families that are involved with partner agencies (social service or job-readiness programs). These applicants must have an agency file an application on their behalf and fall beneath a maximum income level. Those levels are as follows: household size of one – $22,000; household size of two – $26,000; household size of three – $30,000; household size of four – $33,500; household size of five – $37,000; household size of six – $41,500.

When awarded, these vehicles cost about $950 and are backed by guaranteed low-interest loans. Monthly payments are typically around $75 and cars come backed by a six month/6,000 mile warranty.

VFC Changes Lives

True to its name, Vehicles for Change truly transforms lives for the better. While every situation is unique and varies based on circumstances, the groups most heavily affected are financial providers, children, and caretakers.

The primary goal of Vehicles for Change is to transform low-income families by providing them with a stable means of transportation. Owning a vehicle gives people a chance at securing jobs, getting promotions, and increasing their income. Take the story of Jessica as an example.

Jessica is a single mother with three children. While her children are old enough to stay at home by themselves, Jessica is unable to keep a steady job because she’s consistently late. She is rarely able to plan for rides in advance and is forced to rely on inconsistent bus routes to get to work. As a result, her bosses often fire her after just a few weeks. After receiving a car from Vehicles for Change, she is able to get to work regularly every day without stress. Instead of getting fired after a few weeks, Jessica was promoted with a raise.

In addition to improving the financial situation of her family, Jessica can develop her children’s lives. Instead of being forced to stay at home after school, her children can now participate in extracurricular activities and social events. In fact, one child discovered an ability to play piano and may secure a college scholarship in the coming years.

Outside of her immediate family, Jessica is now able to take her disabled aunt to her doctor’s appointments and treatments each week. As a result, her aunt has seen significant improvement and is feeling better.

Far Reaching Effects

While you may be merely interested in learning about how to donate a car, it’s important to gain a clear understanding of the full picture. Your car donation isn’t just about getting a tax deduction or feeling good about some philanthropic venture; it’s about making a difference in the lives of low-income families in your immediate community. By learning everything about car donation, you can truly have an impact.

Vehicles for Change

There are currently 81,000 low-income households in the Baltimore area and 133,550 in Washington D.C. that don’t have their own vehicle. Combined with the fact that only 46-54% of jobs in these areas are reachable within 90 minutes via transit, the issue becomes clear: a lack of car ownership perpetuates the cycle of poverty.

In the past few years, Vehicles for Change has awarded more than 5,000 vehicles to low-income families – improving more than 20,000 lives along the way. According to data, 75% of recipients got better jobs and/or increased earnings after receiving access to a car, and 100% were able to take children to after-school activities and events.

Placing yourself in the shoes of a family struggling to make ends meet without a car is an invaluable experience. With so many opportunities depending on reliable transportation, learning how to donate a car is important for individuals financially able to do so. Your contribution can help families far more than a one-time gift of food or money. Are you informed about how to donate a car?