If you have a vehicle of any condition that’s rare, one of a kind, or unique, you might consider donating it to any of the 30-plus automotive museums in the United States. The entire display collection at the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles is 100% donated to the museum, as is the collection at the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum in Lansing, Michigan. An automotive museum will gladly take any vehicle of any condition, but some tend to be more selective than others. A museum devoted to NASCAR will want former NASCAR racers, a Corvette museum wants Corvettes, and so on.
When you donate a vehicle to a museum, one of two things will happen. They will either find a place for it in the museum or they will sell it. If they keep it, then it will find a permanent home inside its collection. If they sell it, then the car will find a home with the person that is looking for that model car.
Alternatively, you can simply sell the vehicle. Auto museums do organize a lot of private and public car auctions in the United States, and can match your car with the right buyer. But donating a car to a museum does have one distinct advantage over giving to a charity: you can still deduct the fair market value of the vehicle when donating to a museum. If you let a charity have it, you can only deduct what the vehicle sold for.
9. Religious Organizations
When thinking about donating a vehicle, the last organizations you think of are Goodwill, Salvation Army, or Saint Vincent de Paul’s. You go to these places to either get rid of old clothing or pick some up. But, believe it or not, a good percentage of their business comes from selling and repurposing donated vehicles. They take vehicles of any condition and sell them at a public auction. After that, they will send you a tax credit equal to the donated price.
In addition to the religious based non-profit organizations, your local church will need vehicles for more practical reasons than the non-profit. They can use the vehicles to conduct church business, for an after-school auto mobile maintenance program, to help a down-on-their-luck member get back on his or her feet, or for any other reason under the sun. If the organization is creative enough, they can find a use for the car.
8. To Science!
Like most other programs, you can donate your vehicle to a science organization. This is handled via third party where you give them the car, they ship it to the third party trying to sell it and when they do, you get the donation credit and the group gets the money.
If you are not interested in a write-off, but still interested in a worthy cause, you might want to consider donating your used car for a specific science experiment. There are plenty of science experiments that require the use of vehicles.
One group that has a need for old cars is the Mythbusters. The Mythbusters purchase a lot of vehicles for their show and they will always need more of them. There is not an organized group that handles vehicle donations for the Mythbusters, mind you, but they are not going to object that hard if you give them a vehicle to destroy either.
A good number of auto dismantlers act as something of a middle man between you and a charity you want to donate to. The dismantler will take the vehicle, give you a tax write off, and give your charity fair market value for the parts.
Pick ‘N Pull is a large chain of auto dismantlers that will handle all of the particulars, including towing, sending you the tax paperwork, and giving the money for the sales through any of their four affiliates: Volunteers of America, Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the American Red Cross. Other auto dismantlers will have different organizations they are affiliated with. To find the dismantler that is affiliated causes you agree with, go to Charitycar.us. They will do the work of finding causes that fit your interests.
6. Public Schools
A public high school will need vehicles for a couple of reasons. The first one is their driver’s education program. They need to train students in the proper way to handle a vehicle, and a donated used vehicle will aid in that.
The other one is their automotive mechanics program. Maintaining an automobile and repairing it is something that can only be learned by doing. Even with cars that have computers telling you what the problem is, the part still needs to be replaced by hand. That requires hands-on experience to learn properly. If your local high school has a mechanics course, it is possible to donate your vehicle to it.
If you live near Maryland, you can give your vehicle to the Montgomery County Public School system, where they teach their students the art of selling used cars. As long as the vehicle runs, has no major body damage, and has a clean title, they will take your vehicle fix it up, and sell through their used car lot.
Actually, any school with an automotive program will want to have a used vehicle for their automotive repair programs. That way, they will have extra money to pay for other things the program needs. It’s hard to give an example, because every major auto manufacturer has donated a few vehicles to worthy schools over the last decade.
5. Scrap Yards
Sometimes you do not have the luxury of time to find a worthy organization for your vehicle. There could be city ordinances against your house, or you’ll need some immediate cash to pay your bills. If you have derelict vehicles in your backyard, you might want to take them to a scrap yard.
A scrap yard is essentially a giant storehouse for metal. They take metal of all kinds and either sell them to someone else, or they sit on it wait until the market for it yields a fair price for it, then sell it.
As long as you have the title and the keys when you take the vehicle to a scrapper, they will accept it. Be forewarned: the scrapper is not interested in selling the car in its current condition. They are interested in the metal content and that’s about it. If you are lucky, you might get $400 for the metal content in the vehicle, but chances are you are going to get a lot less than that.
4. Demolition Derby / Monster Truck Rally
If you are into mindless fun with your used vehicle, you can donate your vehicle to a demolition derby so it can be destroyed and provide some entertainment for everyone. You will not get any tax credits for doing so but, if that’s not an issue, then go nuts.
It is a common story on the Internet: the owner of a local automotive repair place spends his spare time wrecking cars at the local derby. There is a rather unique charity out there called God’s Mountain. Although it is a church, God’s Mountain does offer some rather creative uses for vehicles that deserve mentioning. On their website, they say that if you donate a vehicle to them, they find a use for it, including giving it to a demolition derby.
3. Artificial Reefs
Think of artificial reefs as the ultimate recycling project. Any metal object that is too big to scrap effectively gets stripped down to its barest skeleton and deliberately sunk to create habitat for marine life. This is often used for decommissioned Navy vessels, but it’s possible to use just about anything to create artificial reefs. New York City donated old subway cars to reef building.
Unless you are in Florida, it is possible to donate your vehicle to create an artificial reef. Florida had to change its laws to prevent this from happening ever again, for a lot of environmental reasons. The main one being, that the metal used in automobiles are rarely thick enough to handle the rigors of the ocean, and they shift constantly. Before the law was amended to prevent donation of this type, a Florida resident made national news by allowing a Rolls Royce to be used to make a reef back in the 90s.
Alabama, on the other hand, still allows automobiles to be turned into reef building material. Through their Department of Conservation and National Resources, Alabama builds artificial reefs from any suitable material. They have used discarded oil tankers, old steel, excess concrete, derelict military vehicles, and even abandoned cars.
2. Give It To A Person
Want to make a difference in a person’s life directly and not through some place that would sell the car for their own profit? Try giving a car to them. Giving a car to someone that needs it will give a tremendous confidence boost that no other thing can.
Every once in a while, an ad appears on Craigslist where a young person asks to borrow a car while he’s starting out. This is usually a young person that is starting out his or her post-college life and is in need of a vehicle so they can find a job, look for work, or even get back to their parents. There are inherent dangers with doing things this way. For one, it is not a tax write-off. The other danger is that you still own the vehicle technically if he or she gets into an accident.
If you do not trust Craigslist (and there really is no reason why you should), but you still want your used vehicle to help a family directly, you can always try contacting Charity Cars. Charity Cars is a non-profit organization set up to give vehicles to worthy individuals. In this day and age, you need a car to survive outside some of the major cities in the world.
1. For A Specific Cause Of Your Choice
The number of deserving organizations set up for vehicle donations is too vast for any top ten list. Habitat for Humanity has a program, and so does Make-A-Wish, the ASPCA and so many other groups. Literally any cause that you can think of will have a vehicle program set up for it, which can be overwhelming at times because it makes choosing that much harder.
This might take a little work because you will need to find the organization whose philosophy you agree with. A few great places to start are cars4causes.net, donateacar.com, and onlinecardonation.org. These organizations are great databases where you can find the proper organization for your support.