Best Car Donation Charities

Ready to donate an unwanted car but don’t know where to start? Many charities accept vehicle donations. You just need to find a legitimate charity that qualifies for a charitable contribution deduction, has a mission you believe in and uses its donations efficiently. One helpful resource is CharityWatch, which evaluates charities based on efficiency, governance and transparency.

Here are our picks for top reputable charities that readily accept car donations.


We began our analysis by looking at a dozen car donation charities sourced from various reputable lists, including non-profit watchdog groups, industry reports, and charitable organization databases.

To narrow down our list, we focused on the following criteria, weighting them as follows:

  • Transparency and accountability: 50%. We prioritized charities with clear, accessible financial information and a strong commitment to transparency.
  • Efficiency of the donation process: 30%. We assessed how straightforward it is for donors to complete the donation, the level of support the charity provides throughout the process and the convenience of scheduling pickups.
  • Impact and reach: 10%. We evaluated the organization’s impact by examining the breadth and depth of its programs. This involved reviewing mission statements, the scope of charitable activities, and testimonials or case studies demonstrating success and impact.
  • Reputation and reviews: 10%. We scoured reviews from donors, beneficiaries and independent review sites to gauge overall satisfaction and identify recurring issues or concerns.

How To Donate a Car to Charity

The easiest way to donate your car is to call the organization or fill out an online donation form. The charity will arrange to pick up the car or have you drop it off at a specific location. You’ll receive a receipt to use when you prepare your tax return.

You should keep that receipt. You’ll need to store it with your records for at least three years to prove your donation.

Claiming a Tax Deduction for Car Donations

Before donating your car, it’s a good idea to read up on the IRS guidelines for charitable donations to be sure you qualify for the deduction you expect to claim.

To get a tax benefit from donating your vehicle, you must itemize your deductions. Generally, your total itemized deductions—including out-of-pocket medical expenses, home mortgage interest, state and local taxes and charitable deductions—must be greater than the standard deduction available for your filing status. For many taxpayers, that’s a tough hurdle. You might want to work with your tax advisor to crunch some numbers before you donate to see if itemizing will be worth it.

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IRS Car Donation Guidelines

If you plan to claim a tax deduction, it’s important to follow IRS guidelines to ensure your car donation qualifies.

  1. Donate to a qualified organization. Qualified organizations are recognized by the IRS as 501(c)(3) public charities or certain private foundations. You can verify an organization’s status using the IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search tool.
  2. Determine your deduction amount. The amount you can deduct for your car donation depends on the value of the vehicle and what the organization does with it.a. Fair market value (FMV). If the charity sells the vehicle for $500 or less, you can generally deduct the FMV of the vehicle up to $500 or the amount it sells for, whichever is greater.b.b. Sale price. If the charity sells the vehicle for more than $500, you can deduct the amount the car sold for. The charity should provide a written acknowledgment that includes the sales price within 30 days of the sale.

    c. Vehicle used by the charity. If the charity uses the car in its operations or plans to make significant improvements before selling it, the deductible amount is its FMV on the date of donation. The charity must provide a written acknowledgment within 30 days of the donation describing the vehicle’s intended use.

  3. Pull together the right paperwork. The IRS has strict rules for documenting vehicle donations, so you’ll need the correct paperwork to claim your write-off. Make sure you get a written acknowledgment from the charity that includes your name, the vehicle identification number (VIN), the date of the donation, and a statement indicating whether you received any goods or services in exchange for the donation.
  4. File your tax return. If your tax deduction exceeds $500, you must complete Section A of IRS Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, and file it with your tax return. If the vehicle is worth more than $5,000, you’ll also need to attach an independent appraisal and complete Section B of Form 8283.

For more details, check out IRS Publication 4303, “A Donor’s Guide to Vehicle Donations.”

How To Choose a Charity for Car Donation

Before selecting a charity to donate to, look it up on CharityWatch or a similar nonprofit database to be sure the organization shares your values.

Also, take precautions to avoid being scammed or contributing to a questionable charity. If you donate your vehicle to an organization that isn’t qualified by the IRS to receive tax-exempt donations, or if you don’t get the proper paperwork, you won’t be able to claim a tax deduction.

Ensure the Organization Qualifies To Receive Tax-Deductible Donations

Most charitable organizations that qualify for tax-deductible donations have a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS.

If you’re unsure whether an organization qualifies, search for the charity in the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search Tool or call the IRS at 877-829-5500 and have the charity’s name and address handy.

Donate to Efficient and Transparent Charities

Even legitimate charitable organizations may be vague about how they use donations or may use only a small percentage of contributions for charitable programs.

For example, one controversial car donation program is the Kars4Kids program, which runs commercials on radio and TV nationwide.

CharityWatch has noted that while Kars4Kids is a legitimate 501(c)(3) charity, it deceives potential donors by not making it clear to donors that it serves only children of a particular faith, primarily in New York and New Jersey.

CharityWatch also reported that Kars4Kids spent more on overhead than other charitable programs in 2015—a red flag suggesting the organization didn’t use donations efficiently. However, a 2022 Kars4Kids report on its operations shows that most spending (63%) during the previous year was devoted to its programs.

Bottom Line

You may not get a tax benefit from donating your unwanted vehicle, but the charity that takes the car is bound to appreciate it. After all, even a clunker that doesn’t run can be sold for scrap.

Do your research on the charity you intend to donate your car to and get your paperwork in order to claim a tax deduction. Then, donating your vehicle will be a win-win for both you and the charity.

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