Donate Your Vehicle – Step By Step Guide

Donating vehicles to respected charities is an activity that has become more popular in recent years. As taxpayers are faced with the decision to trade in a car for less than its book value or give it away in return for a tax deduction, the latter option becomes steadily more appealing. When you donate your car, several steps should take place in order to properly account for the transaction.

How to donate a car
The first step to donating a car is choosing the organization that you would like to receive it. You will need to be certain that the charity you are considering will use the car (or the proceeds from its sale) to do work that you respect and believe in. The organization must be a 501(c)(3) registered charity in order for you to obtain the tax benefits of the transaction. Finally, be sure that the institution that you have chosen accepts vehicle donations.

Once you have selected an appropriate charity to receive your donation, be sure to complete the required paperwork. Sign the title of your vehicle into the charity’s name. If they request that you not do this, do not complete the transaction. Without the title transferred, the vehicle will legally remain in your name despite the fact that you no longer physically have control of it. You should receive an acknowledgement from the charity stating that they received the donation and how much it is worth. (See guidelines at IRS.gov for more information.)

The benefits of donating your vehicle
The greatest financial benefit of donating your car to a charitable organization is the tax deduction you will be eligible for. The amount of this deduction depends upon the charity’s disposal of the vehicle. If they immediately sell it without making any improvements, you can deduct the amount it sold for. If they keep it to use, sell it for below market value to a family in need, or make repairs before selling, you will deduct the fair market value of the car at the time you donated it. The fair market value of the vehicle can be obtained through Kelley Blue Book.

A less tangible but not less important benefit of donating your vehicle is knowing that it is going to a good cause. Using your car as a donation may be your only way of making a contribution of this size. Realizing that you would be given a heavily discounted amount if you trade in your vehicle to a dealership, receiving a tax deduction for the full market value of the car and benefiting a respected charity can be much more fulfilling.

How the organization benefits
If you are still uncertain about whether or not to take the plunge into used car donation, it may help to know how much the charity will benefit from your actions. Depending on your vehicle and the institution you choose, the benefits will vary. If the organization requires transportation, your donation will allow them to provide it. If they are in dire need for cash, the vehicle can be sold, probably for more than you would have traded it in for. If their work includes assisting needy families, your car may be able to be provided to someone who needs it at a price they can afford.

Where to donate in San Diego
If you have decided to contribute your used car to a San Diego charity, you may be wondering about respectable institutions to make your gift to. Here are a few that accept vehicle donations.

San Diego Rescue Mission – Donating your car to this organization will ensure that it goes directly to helping someone within the community. Housing, food, counseling, and education are all provided to those in need through the work of this organization.

Wheels for Wishes – This organization works in coordination with Make-a-Wish of San Diego, selling your old car in order to fund making dreams come true for children facing life-threatening illnesses.

San Diego Humane Society – Do you have a soft spot for homeless dogs and cats? The Humane Society will accept any vehicle donation, running or not. The sale of these vehicles funds their program expenses.

San Diego State University – Donate your car to KPBS at San Diego State University and you will receive a Car 2 Go membership as thanks for supporting their programs.

Donating your used car to charity is a rewarding experience that also carries financial incentive. This sizable tax deduction will make a notable impact at tax time, while your contribution will have a positive effect on your community. Whether you decide to donate your car to a charity that benefits kids, animals, or anyone else in need, you will feel the joy of doing your part to influence the world you live in for the better.

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Nate Ritter lives in the Pacific Northwest (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

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