Donating a Car
February 26, 2004 8:24 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone had any experience donating a car to a non-profit organization? I'm thinking of doing it to get the tax deduction rather than trying to sell it. I found a good site here which tells me how to do it. I'm more interested in stories from the tax side, is it easy?
posted by jeremias to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total)
I gave an old clunker to a local public radio station. Left it in the drive with the title and keys stashed in the glove box, and a towing company came and hauled it when I was out. I got a letter from the radio station confirming the donation, which I sent to IRS with my tax return, along with the appropriate form for charitable donations, and a claim for a deduction based on the car's value (which I calculated as under the blue book value). I just added the value I claimed value for the donated vehicle to my other claimed expenses. It was very easy once I decided to do it. Much easier than selling it, too, especially as the vehicle was 1980s and needed a new tranny.

I think if the value you claim for the donation is over $5000 then you have more paperwork to do.
posted by carter at 8:41 AM on February 26, 2004

There is talk of the IRS cracking down on used car donations. I think it's because the charity gets nowhere near the blue-book value when you donate your car.
posted by reverendX at 8:48 AM on February 26, 2004

KidneyCars is also a popular car donation program.
posted by reverendX at 8:53 AM on February 26, 2004

I heard that it is important for compel the charity to make the title change. They don't want to, because it's a hassle for them to change it, and then change it again to the reseller who buys it from them (the standard operating procedure, as I understand it). But, if you don't, eventually it could come back to haunt you.

Cop knocks on your door, you answer. "Mr. jeremias?" he asks.

"Yes, how can I help you?" you reply, wondering why a cop is knocking on your door at 8:00 on a Sunday morning.

"Mr. Jeremias, a car registered to your name was found in the warehouse district last night with 2 dead bodies stuffed in the trunk. I'd like you to come downtown with me and answer a few questions, if you don't mind."

"I donated that car 6 months ago to [charity name]!" you exclaim.

"I'm sure you did, sir. Would you mind wearing these nice bracelets while we walk down to the car? Just a precaution - you understand, don't you sir?"

I can imagine a hundred different unlikely scenarios in this same vein that might make your life a living Hell for a while.
posted by Irontom at 9:23 AM on February 26, 2004

I donated my failed-engine 1986 Chrysler New Yorker to United Way last year. They towed it away, filled out the paperwork and even provided me with the necessary IRS forms. And their estimate of the car's value was high -- probably close to $2,000.

It turns out I don't make enough money to make use of deductions, though. The standard minimum deductionwas higher than the value of the car.

I guess I could have sold it for $200 or $300. I could have used the cash. The charity group had mechanics donating their time to get vehicles up and running. They were probably able to make more money off of it than I would have.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:29 AM on February 26, 2004

What Irontom said. Document and keep everything. I don't have time to track it down, but I distinctly recall reading stories (in the WaPo?) of people getting serious legal blowback from donated cars that remained titled in their name months later
posted by mojohand at 9:31 AM on February 26, 2004


This happened to my father (sans the dead bodies part...). He donated his used Ford to a local charity in South Carolina. Three weeks or so later, he gets hit with a boatload of tickets. The charity never changed the deed and, I suppose, parked the car somewhere they shouldn't have for quite some time.

Since he had documented proof that he donated the car, he ultimately was off-the-hook for those parking tickets, but it created quite a headache.
posted by herc at 10:15 AM on February 26, 2004

I donated my car to the American Lung Association. Their web address for car donations is easy to remember: They were easy to work with and picked the car up from my driveway. The bluebook value that they sent me greatly exceeded that from Kelly Blue Book et al. I have also heard that the IRS is cracking down on this and seeking to change the rules. I am taking the conservative approach and only claiming what Kelly and others say I could get for the car.
posted by caddis at 7:08 AM on February 27, 2004

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