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Everything from Hood Ornaments to Tail Lamps Every year, many people donate a car to a charitable organization, such as the American Cancer Society. It's a great way to get rid of unwanted cars, and it's a good thing for mankind as well...
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Vol. 3, No. 5
August 6, 2005

Charitable Car Donation
by Andrew Angove

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Have you ever contemplated thinning out your car collection? A person can only allow so much time for cars, and the more cars there are, the less time there is to spend on each one. Often you're better off getting rid of the car or cars you think you'll never get around to restoring, which will allow more time for the ones you really love. But what is the best way to thin out the herd?

Selling your car is obviously the best way. You have money that can be spent on your other vehicles, paying bills, etc. But sometimes a car just won't sell. Who knows why. You've done everything you can think of to sell it with no luck. What are the other options? Taking it to a car dealer might get it sold, but no doubt it will be for much less than it's worth. The dealer will want to make a profit on it, so you get the reduced value so there's room to inflate the price on the dealer's end. You can always part it out, and often you will make more money that way than you would selling it outright. eBay is a good place to sell old car parts, as there's almost always someone out there who needs your unwanted part.

Parting out a car is a slow and tedious process, however. You will still have the car around for a time, while you strip parts off of it to sell. Then those parts must be boxed up and shipped out to the buyer when they do sell. And this takes...time. Which is what you're trying to have more of, right? And of course you have to have the space available to do all this.

Many people earn a good living or subsidize their earnings in this manner, but it certainly isn't a wise choice, nor is it an appropriate one, for everyone. If the motivation to get rid of your car happens to be coming from a partner, your neighbors, or your local government, you might not have the luxury of time to sell or part out your car. What options do you have at this point? Car donation!

You can donate your car to a charitable organization and in many cases use the proceeds from the sale of that vehicle as a charitable tax deduction. There are a few restrictions, but they aren't unreasonable. For instance, the American Cancer Society car donation program stipulates that vehicles must have four inflated tires, keys available, and be in at least fair condition. In other words, it doesn't have to be perfect, but they don't want a car that's already been halfway parted out, nor do they want junk.

I recall a 1970 Continental Mark III that sat on a used car dealer's lot for years and years. The car was nice, but not without signs of wear and tear. It was tan with a black vinyl roof and a gold cloth interior. Nothing special about it, at least nothing notable that I recall at this point. It wasn't loaded, nor was it stripped. The asking price was reasonable, perhaps a bit on the high side, but not outrageous. Year after year, it sat there unsold deteriorating a little more with each passing day.

The lot eventually closed, and all the cars were removed. I spotted the car the following year at the Leake Car Auction, produced annually in Tulsa, Oklahoma in partnership with Kruse International. It had been cleaned up somewhat, and was very presentable overall. A sign on the car indicated in had been donated to the American Cancer Society, and they were selling it with proceeds from the sale going to finance research and to help those who need help the most.

It seemed to me this was a very honorable and thoughtful way of helping others, while allowing a classic car to get off on a good foot with its new owner as it started the next chapter in its life span.

As of January 1, 2005, there were some changes made in the laws governing car donations. The new provisions limit the possible tax deductions up to $500, or the gross proceeds of the sale price of the vehicle if it sells for more than $500.

Charities may have varying requirements, but this is certainly an option to consider if you need to get rid of a car or two. I don't remember if that Mark III sold at the auction or not, but I've never seen it again. I'd like to think that it did sell, and the buyer bought it knowing they were doing something good for mankind, as well as getting a great old car to boot. While this might not be the preferred way of getting rid of a car, it definitely beats letting the car sit outside and rot year after year, which does no one any good, and is certainly a sad way for something once so beautiful to wind up.

Vehicle donation isn't just limited to cars, either. Many charities will also accept trucks, motorcycles, newer RVs, boats on trailers, etc. If the charity you're donating to isn't one of the big, well-known ones, be sure to check out the charitable organization thoroughly to make sure they qualify for charitable status. Who knows, your unwanted vehicle might even be responsible for finding a cure! At the very least, it will likely make life a little better for someone in need, while you get a tax break for your thoughtfulness. And that makes it a good thing.

For additional information on tax deductions for donating a car to charity, you can refer to Publication 4303 at

Copyright ©2005, Automotive Mileposts, Inc.
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