Car Donations

Perhaps your current car's time has come, and you have your eye on that newly release model. Or maybe your old car is "one too many" in your arsenal of vehicles. Either way, you have decided to donate your car. Car donations help keep charities, hospitals, schools, and museums operating without federal grants or tax money. Because of sales and trade-in options available, vehicle donation to charity is truly a philanthropic gesture. Because it is a tax-deductible contribution (in some cases 100 percent), donating a car benefits not only the receiving party but the grantor as well. A number of non-profit organizations are dedicated to aiding people in need and gratefully accept car donations for their charitable causes. With federal grant dollars dwindling each passing year, your car donation will go a long way in helping these non-profit organizations survive and thrive.

Two noteworthy non-profit car donation charities are the Purple Heart Car Donation Program and Wheels for Wishes. As part of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, the former provides donated vehicles (i.e., cars, RVs, trucks and boats) to disabled and wounded military veterans. In their 75-year history, half a million donors have contributed vehicles to the organization, and some of those on multiple occasions. The latter, Make-a-Wish Foundation's program, is similar in that it accepts most any type of donated vehicle, despite its condition. Donations benefit children with life-threatening diseases or medical conditions. Both organizations offer 24-hour towing from the donor's home (or chosen location) free of charge.

The American Diabetes Association, American Red Cross, Breast Cancer Society, Boy Scouts of America, and the United Way are a only few examples of other reputable donation programs that accept cars directly. Other options include online processing centers, but donors should be cautious and thoroughly research these organizations to confirm their authenticity. With the abundance of credible direct-donation organizations out there, for-profit intermediary businesses should be avoided. Because they retain anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of the car's value for themselves, these companies leave little surplus for the charity they claim to support.

It is worth ensuring that the organization to which you are donating the car is qualified to accept charitable donations (i.e., has 501 (c) (3) public charity status, necessary for tax deductions). Car donations of over $500 cash value are IRS tax-deductible, and those over $5,000 require an independent appraisal, so verifying that the fair market value (FMV) of your donation is properly recorded will help you realize your full tax credit. If a charity sells your donated car, be aware that 2004 legislation restricts your tax deduction to the amount at which the car was sold, as opposed to the FMV of the car. Therefore, because you, as the donor, have the potential to be a "winner" in many ways, making an informed giving decision is of paramount importance and can affect your bottom line.

When the time has come to donate the car, carefully consider all your options. If the rewards of helping the less fortunate in your community are not enough, then perhaps the inconvenience and expense involved with selling or making expensive repairs on an aging (or damaged) vehicle should be carefully assessed. Donating your car to charity may very well be the most desirable solution.

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