Anyone ever donated a car to charity?
October 14, 2004 6:03 AM   Subscribe

Anyone ever donated a car to charity? (Drive inside for more)

I’ve just moved into Boston. I travel for work, I’m on public transportation, I’m a membership with ZipCar, and I’ve only driven my 1997 VW Jetta three or four times since July. Everything is saying, “Get rid of the car” (nothing says it better than my $207 a month insurance bill and my $50 a month parking permit for my office).

But, the car isn’t in the best of shape. She has 120,000 miles, is missing a side mirror, dented slightly in the back from a hit and run, and needs some slight engine work. Nothing major, but more of a hassle than I want to deal with. I think, because of the work it would need, I’d have trouble selling it to an individual. I also like the thought of helping out a charity a bit, so I’ve been thinking of donating it to the American Cancer Society, or one of the others who will pick up the car and give me a receipt for a tax deduction.

Has anyone done this? I’m not too worried about the logistics of dealing with the charity and getting rid of the car, as I am about dealing with the tax implications. I know I can take it as a deduction on my taxes, but what’s involved?

Anyone done this?
posted by NotMyselfRightNow to Society & Culture (19 answers total)
(D'oh! I have a membership in ZipCar, not I'm a membership in ZipCar. Ohh, I'm gonna get it for that one...)
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 6:06 AM on October 14, 2004

We donated our old car to the Kidney Foundation four years ago. It was actually fairly easy to manage. They faxed us a few forms to fill out, and then at tax time it is up to you to estimate the "fair value" of your car as a tax deduction. We just used the blue book value at the time of the donation. You'll need to fill out the long 1040 form so that you can itemize your deductions, so start looking for other deductions if you can find some to take advantage of.
posted by briank at 6:13 AM on October 14, 2004

Like briank, I also donated a car to a charity, last year. Other than receiving the forms in the mail rather than by fax, my experience was exactly the same - blue book value for the deduction, etc. The charity lined up a tow truck to come pick up the car, they showed up at my house, hooked up the car, gave me a receipt...piece of cake.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:27 AM on October 14, 2004

Same here: easy and legal.

One final thing I did, just to cover myself, was to take a few pics of the car before they picked it up. The body was in excellent shape and I figured the pictures would help make the Blue Book value case if I was ever audited.
posted by baltimore at 6:34 AM on October 14, 2004

Yep. Same here. Great experience all around.

I donated a 1971 Volvo that had been sitting for more than 2 years. It wasn't in great shape, but I still took a full BB deduction. It's a win-win, for you and the charity, so long as you pay enough tax to utilize the deduction.
posted by maniactown at 7:40 AM on October 14, 2004

Make sure to fill out the appropriate paperwork with the DMV... Typically these cars are resold at auction so if the new owner does something illegal with the car, or just leaves it on the side of the road without reregistering it first, it could be tied back to the original owner...
posted by mhaw at 7:44 AM on October 14, 2004

Previous thread here
posted by skwm at 7:58 AM on October 14, 2004

I donated a car once. All I had to do was sign over the title. The tow truck showed up about twenty minutes after the second plane hit the WTC. Other than the whole terrorism thing, it was a breeze. Didn't have enough itemizations to make it worth not using the standard so I guess I kind of gave the car away, but oh well.
posted by Apoch at 8:06 AM on October 14, 2004

Additional previous thread.
posted by Irontom at 8:08 AM on October 14, 2004

Thanks for the feedback, everyone (and for the previous threads, Irontom and skwm). Good to know this isn't going to be headache inducing!
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 8:22 AM on October 14, 2004

It's a win-win, for you and the charity, so long as you pay enough tax to utilize the deduction

Actually, I didn't pay enough in taxes to use my donation as a deduction, but it was enough for me that they came and picked-up the car. It was my beloved Jeep Grand Wagoneer-- but the transmission was going and it was leaking oil, and I couldn't have gotten $500.00 for it.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:29 AM on October 14, 2004

Don't want to burst your bubble but you should be aware that there is a new corporate tax bill which was passed last week that makes getting the full BB value of your vehicle much more difficult than in the past.

Details here.
posted by jeremias at 8:58 AM on October 14, 2004

I was just going to say what jeremias said avove - if you are donating, do it this calendar year for the best tax deduction value.
posted by widdershins at 10:05 AM on October 14, 2004

I tried to do this last weekend, on fairly short notice and found it to be impossible. They all wanted to mail me stuff in the mail (no good, since I was moving) or to pick it up in 3 or 4 business days.

I ended up selling it on Craigslist in 30 minutes.
posted by bshort at 11:30 AM on October 14, 2004

If you do decide to go the selling route, remember that people in cities are more likely to buy a beat up car at a low price. I paid less than $2000 for the ugliest 14-year-old car you've ever seen, but I rarely drive it, so I don't mind.

Also, I advertised on craigslist a couple years ago that I would sell my jeep to a single mom for $100 because it needed a new clutch. That worked out pretty well, mostly.
posted by bendy at 12:11 PM on October 14, 2004

I’m not too worried about the logistics of dealing with the charity and getting rid of the car

You should be. Both times I've been personally involved with a situation like this, the car has been found stripped to its chassis and abandoned by the side of the freeway within 2 weeks.

In California, you can go to the DMV and file a notice of title transfer, which my mother thoughtfully did, the day of the car pickup. When she was dunned by Highway Patrol for the cost of removing the stripped chassis, she faxed a copy of this form to them. This resulted in the charity getting dunned, and an angry phone call from the charity suggesting that Mom ought to pay the fine.

Needless to say, she laughed in the caller's face and hung up on them.

When this happened to my friend in Washington State, he hadn't had such foresight, and had to swallow the $1500 disposal bill, more than negating any benefit of making the donation.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:13 PM on October 14, 2004

ikkyu2, can I presume that neither situation involved nationally known and reputable charities such as NKF or Goodwill?
posted by Dreama at 1:46 PM on October 14, 2004

In California, you can go to the DMV and file a notice of title transfer

In Washington, you can do this online.
posted by kindall at 2:30 PM on October 14, 2004

Dreama: no, one of these was a well known national diabetes charity. I don't really think it was their fault; it seems that most charities accept the car and then immediately turn it over to (third party), which unspecified but hypothesized third party gives the charity a little money and then either fixes up for quick resale on a lot, or else strips for parts.

It's not hard to imagine this third party being a little shady, even if the charities themselves are on the up and up!
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:29 AM on October 15, 2004

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