To whom should I donate my car in the Bay Area?
September 3, 2017 12:44 PM   Subscribe

My car needs to go; what charity should I donate it to in order to maximize the benefit?

My high-mileage, low amenities 2001 Ford Focus has no place in my new urban lifestyle. But I know that many charitable auto donations involve a third-party selling the car at auction and keeping a very large commission. Is there a good alternative?
posted by L0 to Work & Money (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: a friend of mine got a beat-up car from the St. Vincent de Paul Society once. So maybe they try to place donated cars with people who need transportation?
posted by thelonius at 1:11 PM on September 3, 2017

NPR helps a lot of people and welcomes auto donations. They can give you paperwork for your tax deduction if you want it. Here's info from KQED SF; you can donate to (most) any local station you want as well.
posted by SaltySalticid at 1:59 PM on September 3, 2017

The National Kidney Foundation takes cars.
posted by 4ster at 2:36 PM on September 3, 2017

My NPR donation experience ('92 Honda Accord donated at the end of 2012 with about 210,000 miles) was not good. They sold the car for scrap, which was too bad because it definitely had some life left in it, and 3/4ths of the pittance they got for it went to the tow and the commission, leaving NPR with a whopping $91 dollars of benefit.

By contrast, in 1999 I gave my '88 Honda Civic (also with a little over 200,000 miles) to an impoverished person of my acquaintance who had just gotten into a very prestigious grad school program. It enabled her to continue her job at a supermarket while attending grad school; the trip would have otherwise been about 2 hours each way by public transportation. She passed the car on to somebody else after finishing school. That was an much more satisfying experience and when it's time to give up my current wheels I will seek out a similar opportunity.

However, you may not want to give the car to someone you know, because you don't want to hear about whatever goes wrong or feel guilty about it. So I suggest you call your local branch of NAMI, or a woman's shelter, or some other organization that serves people in need and ask them if one of their clients can use it.
posted by carmicha at 2:49 PM on September 3, 2017 [14 favorites]

If you are most interested in maximizing the value of your donation, detail the car, sell it on Autotrader, and give the money to the charity of your choice. Any car you give directly to a charity that does not plan to use it for their own purposes (aside from those that take old cars and repair them so they can be given to those in need), which is the vast majority of them, will be sold at auction for somewhere closer to trade in value, but that's before the costs of the sale are factored in, which will eat up much of the sale price on a car that old.

If it were me and I didn't need the deduction to make it work financially, I'd just sell it or give it to a cousin/friend/friend of friend/whatever who needs it. I wouldn't want to use it for a long commute, but it's probably still perfectly good for many purposes unless it's a non-running car that should be going to a junkyard (or maybe your local high school's auto shop class if they have one) rather than a charity.

If it isn't running, don't donate except to a local vocational high school with an auto shop class that wants it; they get essentially nothing from a car like that. The sale price will barely pay for a tow truck to pick it up.
posted by wierdo at 2:51 PM on September 3, 2017 [5 favorites]

I had a great experience donating to my local PBS/NPR station. They auctioned it off for more than I would have sold it.
posted by Neekee at 3:36 PM on September 3, 2017

Best answer: If your car is mechanically sound and running well, donate it to 1-800-Charity Cars, which provides poor families with donated vehicles.

I've donated two cars to the organization, and can attest both to the organization's probity, and to the wonderful feeling I get from knowing that my old car is making life a lot easier for a single mother or a veteran.

NPR doesn't need your car.
posted by BadgerDoctor at 4:13 PM on September 3, 2017 [7 favorites]

You could Craigslist it fairly easily and get at least a grand or two for it, probably. You can give the money to charity if you want.
posted by Slinga at 6:22 PM on September 3, 2017

I gave a car to KQED and ended up getting a citation in the mail after it racked up some tickets in another part of the state. So, use caution there. I was able to prove I didn't own it, but it was super annoying.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:54 PM on September 3, 2017

In the Bay Area, if you're donating your car to a public radio station I would strongly suggest KALW over KQED. They are consistently doing innovative radio (Roman Mars started off there) on a fraction on KQED's budget. I donated a vehicle to them and it was really simple, they handled everything, and there were no problems after the fact. Here's the vehicle donation information.
posted by kendrak at 10:03 PM on September 3, 2017

If you're not on a hurry to unload the car, consider holding onto it until things settle down a bit in the zone impacted by hurricane Harvey. That's a place where cars will be in high demand and I expect there will be ways to donate down there.

If ready charities don't emerge after a while, there are mefites in the area who could find a needy cause; and probably there are some mefites in your area that will be going down there to help during recovery who'd be willing to drive it down to there.

If that idea sound appealing, you can always post another question about that specific idea.
posted by mightshould at 4:11 AM on September 4, 2017

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