How to Get Rid of That Old Car on Your Driveway and Help Someone Along the Way

Your trash could be someone else’s treasure.

byKristin V. Shaw| UPDATED Nov 14, 2020 12:18 PM
How to Get Rid of That Old Car on Your Driveway and Help Someone Along the Way

If you own a car that’s on its last legs and you know you want to Marie Kondo it out of your life, you have three main options: sell it, junk it, or donate it.

Selling it may be the best option if it’s running on its own steam. Let’s say you have a car that you’ve been tearing up for years and it’s just barely holding itself together; junking it may look attractive if you need some quick cash. Don’t forget, though, that you will have to figure out how to get it to the junkyard, and that might result in towing costs. So before you start counting your money, deduct that from your profit.

2020 has been a nightmare of a year in many ways, and there are a lot of people struggling to make ends meet. That hunk of metal and plastic may be trash to you, but for someone else, it might be a project in the making or even something that saves them from financial ruin, with a little help. Most people don’t have the tools (or time) to restore a car that’s dying. There are several legit organizations out there that will pick up your car for you, fix it up, and give it to someone who needs one.

For instance, Wheels for Wishes will take your car, truck, boat (or other watercraft), RV, trailer, or motorcycle and turn it into a wish for your local Make-a-Wish chapter. Make-a-Wish, in turn, arranges a special experience—like meeting their favorite celebrity or going to Disneyworld—for a kid with a life-threatening or terminal illness. They’ll come to you, pick up your vehicle, and tow it away at no cost to you. Before the latest set of tax law changes, that meant a nice deduction for you. My dad is a tax accountant, and he told me if you itemize, you can still count that toward your total. You’re going to want to talk to your own tax accountant to find out if you can use it.

What happens to your car when they take it away? Your car has a (literal) ton of recyclable parts, and the EPA says recycling metal uses 74 percent less energy than making new metal. So you’d be donating it to a good cause, it doesn’t cost you any money or hassle, and you’re helping the environment, too. Win-win-win.

Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash

Another option is Habitat for Humanity, which accepts donated vehicles and sells about half of them at wholesale options. The other half is sent to auto salvage yards, where they remove all of the reusable parts, batteries, tires, and fluids and then crush, shred, and recycle it. The organization says this keeps an enormous amount of steel out of landfills, and results in enough recycled material to build nearly 45,000 steel-framed homes a year.

DAV (Disabled American Veterans) is a 100-year-old organization that takes donated cars and turns that into money for its veteran-based programs. The caveat is that the vehicle must be in one piece, have an engine, be tow truck accessible, and towable. That could mean it must have four inflated tires in order to be hauled away by the towing operator.

Convinced? There are a few things you should know before you decide. First, do your due diligence and check out the organization to which you want to send your donated car. There are thousands of them out there, and not all of them are on the up and up. There’s a great one near me in Houston, Texas that helps single moms, widows, and wives of deployed military who are struggling to make ends meet. The organization makes necessary repairs and help through donated cars and parts.

Watch out for a charity that has a kitschy name or sounds like a play on a well-known organization (like Habitat for Humans instead of Habitat for Humanity). You can check it out with the Better Business Bureau or Charity Watch. If it doesn’t have 501(c)(3) non-profit status with the IRS, it is not a charity. Thus, your donation is not tax-deductible.

Next, get a receipt, and make sure that you have photos of the vehicle for your records. Here’s the most important part, so pay attention: sign the title directly over to the charity or their agent. Do not let the vehicle leave your sight until the ‘buyer’ section of the title is filled in. If you leave the title blank, you allow anyone to transfer the title directly from you to the next buyer. And what happens, as a result, could mean that you remain liable for the vehicle, which is not good. If the vehicle is never correctly transferred, you could be liable for it.

We could all use a little help. If you’re willing to forgo a few hundred bucks for your old car, it might mean a lot more for someone else.

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