How to Donate That Vehicle You’re Not Using

By Jordan Watson

March 17, 2016   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

If you’re anything like me, you often start projects you can’t finish. I can’t tell you how many hobbies I’ve thought I’d become an expert in that I slack off on in a week. Unfortunately, a lot of those hobbies involve pretty big purchases that end up going unused. That boat I was definitely going to use to go fishing ended up sitting unused in the garage for a lot longer than I’d care to admit.
Thankfully, there are some options out there for those of us who need to get rid of unused stuff. There are lots of charitable organizations out there that take junk cars, boats and motorcycles off your hands and sell them for you—all while giving you a nice tax break in return. But how does that work? How do you go about donating a car?

Step 1: Choose the Charity

Thankfully, there are a lot of organizations out there to help you. It can be hard to determine which organizations would be best to give to, though. How do you know you’re getting the best deal, or that the organization will be helping? A good way to tell how “legitimate” a charity is is to determine what the IRS classifies them as. Try to find an organization not focused on making a profit or helping private interests. For example, a 501©(3) organization cannot influence legislation or inure (benefit) a private shareholder. What you give them goes to helping the charity, not their pockets.
Once you find some legitimate charities, decide what sort of charity you wish to support. There are a lot of issues out there that need attention and support. As an example, there’s Make-a-Wish. This organization helps children with severe or terminal illnesses achieve their dreams. They have a car donation program that will take unused vehicles off your hands to benefit Make-a-Wish. Once you find a program that really speaks to you, it’s time to contact them.

Step 2: Arranging a Pick-Up

Lots of these car donation organizations will tow a vehicle for you. You don’t have to worry about hauling that boat out somewhere, or if the motorcycle no longer runs. They try to work with potential donors to make sure things are hassle-free. Call them to figure out a time that will work for you, then let them do the hard work. Some charities require you to have the title of the vehicle ready when they pick it up, though others can pick it up regardless of if you have the title or not. Besides that, you don’t have to do most of the arranging!

Step 3: Taxes!

Once your vehicle has been donated, the charity will give you a receipt for what it is worth. The receipt needs to include your name, the name of the organization, and a description of the vehicle you donated. Keep this and the form given to you by the charity to put on your tax return for that year. If your vehicle was worth $500.00 or less, you can get up to $500.00 in your tax deduction. If the vehicle was worth more than $500.00, you can claim the exact amount it was worth. If the organization you donated to gives incentives for your donation (for example, a vacation package), the value of that incentive will lessen the amount you can deduct from your taxes.

So while you might not get what you paid for that motorcycle or boat, there are still lots of benefits to donating the vehicle, besides the freed up space in your garage! It doesn’t have to be too much of a hassle to get rid of a vehicle you ended up not using. Besides that, you can rest easy knowing that boat ended up being of some use to someone else.

Jordan Watson

Jordan Watson is a writer and content creator focused on helping others achieve and succeed.

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