Donating a Car

Parent Q&A

  • Donating a car

    (3 replies)

    hello all,

    i have a working 2002 volkswagen golf that i'm considering donating to charity. i'd like to find a nonprofit that will actually use the car internally or give it to a family in need. my understanding is that the logistics of selling the car often make car donations an inefficient way to raise money for nonprofits, so this feels less "charitable" of a way of giving. any suggestions greatly appreciated.



    RE: Donating a car ()

    Hi there! I work for Homeless Prenatal, which is an organization which assists and supports women and families that are dealing with homelessness and are either expecting a child or just had a child. I am sure a car would be greatly accepted.

    Thank you for your kindness Kirsten!

    RE: Donating a car ()

    Dear Kirsten,

    We are a student family newly arrived in the US (with 1 and 3 year-old daughters) and struggling to make ends meet.  Life in the bay area is very expensive and a car would give me a better chance to get a  job while my husband is studying full time at UC Berkeley.  We would give the car a very good home and it would really help us.

    We acknowledge that you are looking to donate to a nonprofit organisation who could donate to a family directly.  As a new immigrants with young children it would make a real difference to our lives.  Much appreciated if you could consider.  

    Wish you a very happy thanks giving,

    RE: Donating a car ()

    I believe that El Cerrito High School may still be accepting cars. They have an automotive shop where students learn to fix cars and they typically need donated cars to work on. You might check with them. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Donating a car directly to a nonprofit

Jan 2016

I have a running car that I'd like to donate to a 501(c)(3) organization. Resale value is about $3200 but I would prefer to donate it and get the tax benefit instead. I want to work with an organization that directly accepts car donations. I've read that some companies that sell the cars for the orgs keep between 50%-90% of the proceeds for themselves. I've been on charity navigator site this evening and am not finding what I need. Wondering if anyone here can help. Thanks BPN! East Bay Parent

One suggestion would be to ask at a local high school with an auto shop; I believe they welcome having cars for the students to work on. Claire

Recent experience donating a car?

July 2008

I have a car that I want to donate to some organization. The car is actually in good shape but needs a clutch and I since I don't need the car I don't want to spend the money to fix it. I recognize that it will be used for parts and while this is unfortunate I can accept it. If you have had a recent experience donating a car I would be interested in knowing which organization you used and how the process was. The archives are a bit dated on this subject. donate a car

I recently donated our 20 year old, 200,000 mile Honda to KQED. It was very easy. They were friendly, came to get the car when they said they would, etc. We just received the donation letter saying that it sold for $500 or less and we could use that letter or the tow receipt for our taxes. Sally

i've donated a car to the american cancer society before. it was very easy. i filled something out online & they called to arrange pickup. However, I believe they only take cars that are working. Good luck! anon

looks like they'll take your car: anon

I donated a car to Make-A-Wish Foundation. They are a great organization! They made it a really easy process! My car was not running at the time and I also did not want to put any money into it. I called their 800 number and told them I had a car to donate. They sent me a short form to fill out and then I told them where the car was parked and they came and towed it away. Afterwards they sent a letter outlining the charitable donation that can be used for a tax write off. Your car could help make someone's wish come true. Anon

Donating a car to a person in need

May 2006

We have an old 1995 van that is a clunker in some ways, but it is otherwise a safe and well-maintained vehicle, and we are considering donating it. Does anyone know a way to give a car to an organization that will then give the car to a real person in need?? We donated another old car that was sold for parts, and that wasn't our goal. I suppose we could try to sell the van, but I don't think we'll find a buyer - it's banged up; clicker doesn't work; each lock has to be manually locked and opened; an inside panel fell off... I could go on and on. But we've maintained it regularly, and it has new front brakes and front tires, and only 110,000 miles which isn't bad. Any ideas? I'm going to sign as anonymous, because I want advice, not people emailing for a free car!
Would like to see someone use it

A few years ago, I also wanted to donate my car to be used as a car, and not just sold for a cash donation. I ended up donating it to this organization which gives working cars to refugee families: Marion

I had a similar situation with a van. I put it on Craigslist -- and got lots of interest. Most people told me if they were taking it for parts, or if they were down on their luck and needed safe transportaiton for their family. There is also a website called, where you can put in listings for free items. Good for you for wanting it to go to a needy person! Kim

Hi, Here are some groups that I can recommend you get in touch with. I don't personally know who handles car donations there though.

1. BOSS, building opportunities for self-sufficiency, is a well-established and respected organization in Berkeley and Oakland working with homeless people before and after homelessness.

2. Women's Day Time Drop In Center, on Acton Street in Berkeley, helps homeless women and their children. Linda Lazzareschi is the Executive Director.

3. You might try your local church - walk in and ask if they have a social ministry or members who could be in need.

4. Richmond Lighthouse (think that's what it's called) is a well regarded ministry serving homeless and poor folks.

5. National Economic Development & Law Center in Oakland has project to provide cars to women on TANF (welfare) so they can get to better jobs than on public transit. Hope those help! Betsy

Earlier recommendations

March 2005

We are interested in donating a working car to a charity and the website does not have current information. Has anyone donated a car and had a positive experience? Can you recommend a reliable charity? We have heard that there can be problems as well with not having the title changed and then becoming responsible for someone else tickets etc. Is this a legitimate concern; is there anything else we should be aware of? Thank you Linda

The nonprofit I work with used to accept car donations but we stopped because we found most car donation middlemen- i.e. the folks who process and handle the donation-- to be questionable at best.

For example, we received ''70%'' of the proceeds of each sale. That doesn't sound too bad, but that 70% was AFTER a whole lot of other fees were deducted, like administrative fees, listing fees, etc. So for a car that you'd expect to sell on craigslist for say, $1,000, it will likely sell for far less at the salvage lot that the car donation middleman uses. If the total sale price is $500, the middleman might take about $150 in ''fees'' and then give the charity 70% of the $350 that's left. So the charity ends up with about $200 or so from your $1000 car. At least that was my experience. At the very least, you might ask a charity about their program and how much they really get from the donations.

If you are donating your car purely for the write off, which many people do, you should first check with your accountant because I think the rules around car donation deductions have changed significantly in the last year. It isn't as easy to take the write off and in many cases, you'd be better off just selling the car and donating some of the proceeds to your favorite charity.

Alissa H.

The East Bay SPCA accepts car donations. The proceeds are spent on helping dogs and cats in our community find new homes. They handle all the paperwork and it was fairly easy. You can call them at 510-563-5604 or email info [at] cars for pets

We've given two cars to Children's Hospital of Oakland where the proceeds to to research. Our second donation we asked the proceeds go to a specific department which they said they could do. Good luck. Oakland Mom

April 2004

I'm looking for a place to donate a 1976 Camaro, interior not in good shape, dead battery. My mother, 84, is reluctant to send it to a wrecking company, and I'm looking for a way to help her feel good about letting go of this car. The usual places to donate take only cars that currently run, and I do not have the time or money to get it running. Possibilities: a wrecking company with even a small charity component, who donates parts on occasion to high school auto classes, or has any other charitible affilitiation. This might sound odd, but someone from a wrecking company that likes pets might also work. Thanks! pat

KQED has a car donation program. Jen

I'm really surprised to hear that your car has to be running. All the many ads I hear on the radio say they will take your car running or not (or even if it is up on blocks!). In fact, when I donated my car to an AIDS charity in Boston back in 1998, I was really depressed that they were required by law to tow it! How undignified! It ran perfectly and I had pictured some happy teenage boy with my elderly car having fun and the charity getting close to $700 for it. What I know now is that most charities in fact only receive about $200 per car and that the cars, running or not, typically go to a wrecking company anyway for parts. Therefore, I'm curious if you have tried calling a variety of charities? I've heard recent ads for a blind society and for KQED, among many, many others. You also mentioned pet lovers -- I'm sure I've also heard about donating cars to a local animal shelter. Hope this helps, KB

One of our cars died last year and we were able to donate it to Christmas in April. They picked up the car the day after we called them and helped process all the paperwork, transfer of title, etc. You can reach them at (510) 581-5447. Good luck! Lesley

-- I just donated my old VW it was rusted through, and unregistered. I had to get a junk certificate and the car hadn't been running in 19 years. I called many places and finally I had a change to donate it to American Family through Pick and Pull. I also had the option of Pick and Pull charging for towing -- taking it -- and I would have been paid $2. There's a place in Oakland and Richmond. I went to Richmond. The website is: It's true, I had trouble donating a working Honda -- the middle men just sell the cars at auction. So try Pick and Pull and some of the places that say junk cars. It's worth something!! Cornelia

Nov 2003

Does anyone have experience donating an old car to charity? We have a now non-functional car we need to get rid of. What charities have been used and how has it worked? Thanks! Anon

We donated an old car last year to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It was so easy! I just called, and talked to a representative for a short time to discuss the details of the car (they don't care if it's running or not), and then we scheduled a time for them to come pick up the car. They tow the cars regardless of condition. All paperwork was done for us efficiently - and a quote was given to us over the phone of our tax write-off. When the written documentation followed, after the car pick up, we were even happier to see that they increased the value amount based on work we had recently done to the car, condition, etc. Couldn't have been happier with their services. Good Luck! Melissa

I donated my 1990 Corolla, which technically still ran but needed an engine rebuild and a new catalytic converter, to the Lindsay Wildlife Museum this past summer. It was super easy: you call them and answer questions about the vehicle you want to donate, then they send you some paperwork. You'll get a call from their towing company to arrange a pick up time. The day they come to get the car, you leave the filled-out paper work and the keys in the unlocked car. (They do require that the tires not be flat.) It's really easy to get a hold of them on the phone, they can answer all your questions, and they send you a donation slip for your taxes. The number is 877-660-6689. LB

April 2000

I would like to give away an old car. Has anyone had a hassle-free experience giving a car to a charitable organization? Please let me know which one and how you arranged it. Thanks. Judy

iPoet might be able to use your car. Does it run? You can find out more about the program at - the Homeless Poets Cafe It's a Berkeley-based non-profit website to benefit adult literacy and homeless people. iPoet is able to give you a tax credit and do all the paperwork when they pick up the car. They'll try and fix it up and get it to a (licensed) homeless person who's working and behaving responsibly and can afford insurance and gas.. It's a good program. Your contribution will be appreciated.

I donated my car to St. Vincent de Paul in Concord and it was hassle-free. I called them up and told them what I had and they set up an appointment. All I had to do was fill out the pink slip and sign three forms that they brought with them. They also sent me a confirmation letter later for tax purposes.

Last year I donated a car to the American Cancer Society and was very pleased with their performance. The ACS produced a detailed packet of the required DMV forms, with my information pre-printed and highlighted in the places I needed to enter some info. ACS can be reached at 877-788-2700. ACS arranged a time to pick up the car and was on time and couteous.

Be sure to have your car appraised prior to making the donation. The limit to deduct from your taxes without an appraisal is $5000. The blue book value isn't enough for the IRS, so go for an appraisal if you think the car is worth more tan $5k.

I donated my car to Habitot Children's Museum in Berkeley and it was hassle-free. I called Julie Cohen (Board of Directors) up and told her what I had and she asked me a few questions. All I did was to fill out the pink slip and signed a couple of forms. She arranged an appointment to have the car pick up. She also gave me a confirmation letter for tax purpose.

Habitot Children's Museum will gladly accept your old car donation. Many non-profits are taking advantage of this form of giving. Normally they work with an outfit that actually handles the logistics of the pick-up and sale. Call Habitot at 510-647-1111 and they will be happy to walk you through the steps of their program. Kathy

Apr 1997

I am looking for an agency that I can donate an old car to, I have seen it advertised on the television and I believe it supports abused children, I would prefer that agency. Can anyone help? it would also be helpful if the car could be picked up. Thanks Trisilenia

Look in the Tribune. In the Want Ads/For Sale part of the paper, look at the first page where they sell dogs, etc. under that section there is a section I think called charities. You will find the listings of where to donate. WE donated 2 cars last year, got good write offs. Only thing it may take time for them to come and pick up the cars. The charities are quick to get the information from you, but then the towing company has to arrange to come pick the car up. It took us 2 weeks with one company. Make sure that you have your pink slip the day they pick up the car, otherwise it causes more delays............ Good luck.......... Cindy

This is a great idea. However, when I did it in late 1992, I had a number of problems. I first called a Berkeley program for homeless people with emotional problems, but the director did not get back to me. Then I called a battered women's shelter in SF, and they didn't get back to me. Finally, about 2 days before my insurance on the car ran out, I called a Jewish agency whose names I had gotten from a Jewish bulletin, and they arrived at my house the next day (a Sunday!) with all papers completed and took away the car. So, I don't know the name of the agency you are thinking of dealing with (there are lots on billboards going into SF), but if you have a problem, try looking in a Jewish newspaper. Wendy

Two issues - First, a friend donated a car to a reputable non-profit and all was well until she got audited by IRS this year and they disallowed the deduction because she didn't apparently have the right supporting paperwork to prove the car's worth. A couple of these agencies advertise regularly on KGO-AM, Newstalk radio. Barbara RE: donating cars In some areas, the Salvation Army will take cars. Lynn

Hi Everyone, We did donate a car to Salvation Army in Oakland this year, and it was really easy. Flake that I am, I had lost the pink slip, but I just called DMV and they mailed me paperwork to use when there's no pink slip to be found. We did take the car down ourselves. The center is really close to 12th Street BART in Oakland, so we just BARTed back home afterward. We decided to donate to Salvation Army because we had seen some news pieces about places that take cars and then redistribute some of the nicer ones to the administrators. We wanted to make sure that most of the value of the car got to the people we intended it for. Heather

I successfully donated a car to Catholic Charities. I went with them because someone actually answered the phone, and my mother received a grant from them for first and last month's rent prior to a recent move to senior housing. I was also informed that if the vehicle is running or has affordable repairs, then the car is made available to an individual in a job training program to use to get to work. The process was somewhat long and drawn out, although painless, but I think this was because I made the donation in November. The car wasn't actually picked up until the after the first of the year, but the title changed before then. My tax preparer treated the donation in a very straitforward manner, so I don't anticipate any tax troubles. Good luck! Holliday