How to Donate your car in California
Are you ready to donate a car in California? If so, good for you! Donating a car to charity is a wonderful decision on many levels. First of all, your donation goes to help a great cause. Plus, you get your old vehicle or junk car moved off of your property free of charge. You are also recycling an old vehicle, and you also get to claim the car donation as a tax deduction.
In this post you’ll find some tips on how to donate a car in California and some specific requirements you should be aware of that relate to California car donations.
1. To donate a car in California, you begin by submitting an online car donation form or calling the charity you wish donate your vehicle to. If you wish to claim the car donation as a tax deduction, be sure to check that the charity is an IRS recognized nonprofit organization.
2. Donating your car to charity in California: The process for receiving the tax receipt for your charitable donation may vary. Some charities will email you the initial receipt while others have the tow truck provide you with the receipt at the time of pick up. This is just an initial receipt and enables you to claim a tax deduction of up to $500. You should check with the charity to find out what their procedure is for providing you with this receipt when you submit your vehicle donation.
3. In the State of California, the license plates remain with the vehicle, so these should not be removed prior to the pickup.
4. Filing a Release of Liability with the California Department of Motor Vehicles is an important step you do not want to miss when you donate a car. This document releases you from future liability which may arise for any reason after the vehicle is donated. In California the procedure for filing a Release of Liability is that you must return the pink portion of the title or DMV form REG 138 to your local Department of Motor Vehicles. Alternatively, you can file your release of liability online at http://www.dmv.ca.gov.
5. If your vehicle sells for more than $500, or if it qualifies for a fair market value tax deduction, you will receive additional tax paperwork after the sale of the vehicle takes place. The amount you will be allowed to deduct on your taxes will vary depending on several factors which could include the price the vehicle is sold for or whether the vehicle is classified as a fair market value car donation.
6. One last point we should mention is that if you plan to claim your car donation tax deduction on your 2012 taxes, you need to make sure you donate the car well before the deadline of December 31, 2012. The charity should have possession of the vehicle before midnight on December 31st, or at least have the pickup well in the works, in order for you to claim your tax deduction in 2012. Don’t wait till the last minute as there could be delays that could result in you being unable to claim the donation as a deduction for the current tax year.
If you have any further questions related to your car donation tax deduction, most charities are relatively knowledgeable about the process and paperwork needed, however, you should consult a CPA or accountant for specifics regarding your particular tax situation.
For additional questions related to car donations in California, you can contact your local DMV or visit the California DMV website for the latest information on state specific requirements.
Top Tips to Help You Donate a Car
Donate your car for a tax credit by donating to an IRS registered nonprofit organization:
Before you donate a car to charity, make sure that the car donation program you have chosen is a qualified, eligible, 501(c)3 IRS registered charity. If it is not a qualified organization, donating cars to them may not be tax deductible. Donors can use the IRS Web site to check that an organization is qualified by searching Publication 78, which is an annual list of most organizations that are qualified to receive deductible contributions. You can also find Publication 78 in many public libraries. Or, if you prefer, you can call IRS Tax Exempt/Government Entities Customer Service at 1-877-829-5500 and ask if the charity is qualified. Be sure to have the organization’s correct name and its headquarters location, if possible. You can check the IRS status of the car charity you choose online by going to: IRS Charity Search.
Determine your charity tax deduction:
In order to claim your car donation you must itemize deductions on your personal tax return. For taxpayers, the decision to itemize on Schedule A of Form 1040 is determined by whether their total itemized deductions are greater than the standard deduction. Of course, many donors are not interested in the tax deduction and just want to donate a vehicle to charity so that it can be used for a good purpose. However, if you are interested in a tax deduction when you donate a car, you should understand that in order to obtain it, you must itemize your deductions and not just go with the standard deduction.
Calculate the value of the vehicle you wish to donate to charity:
There are many online resources for determining the fair market value of your car donation. Checking the “blue book value” will give you guidance on the general value of your donated vehicle, but you should also take into account the overall condition of your car donation when donating to charity. ‘Your car donation is tax deductible and will fall into one of these categories: For low value vehicle donations you can claim the fair market value up to $500.00 without any additional paperwork besides the receipt we will provide at the time of the pickup.
If you donate a car that is worth more then $500.00, your deduction will be limited to the actual sale price of your car donation. All proceeds will benefit Activated Ministries, a 501(c)3 Christian charity. If your donated car is sold for over $500, we will provide you with a receipt stating the gross sale value of your vehicle within 30 days of the sale of your donated car. We will work to get top dollar for your car donation, however most vehicles are sold “wholesale” at auctions, dealerships etc. and are frequently sold for less then the Kelly Blue Book value.
For cars that are in safe and good running order that we can specifically use for our charitable projects or if we can significantly improve your vehicle before it is sold then you can generally claim your car’s fair market value. Please call us at if you want to verify if this would be the case for your car donation. If your donated vehicle is used by Activated Ministries for our charitable purposes or if it is improved before the sale, we will provide you with a receipt specifying this exception so that you can claim the fair market value of your car donation.
Locate a car donation charity with local or nationwide service:
When you contact a charity that accepts car donations, make sure that they provide pickup service in your area. Many charities offer free nationwide pickup of your vehicle donation.
Make sure there are no hidden costs:
Most car donation charities will pick up your donated car for free, at no cost to you. Make sure you ask to ensure that there will be no hidden charges when you donate a car.
Locate the title for your car donation:
Usually you will need to provide a title for your vehicle if you wish to donate your car to charity. If you have lost your title, you should contact the Motor Vehicle Department in your State to obtain a duplicate title. Sometimes you can donate your car without having the title, especially if your donated car will be sold for parts or salvaged. Check with the motor vehicle department in your state to determine if you must have the title for your vehicle before donating.
Check to make sure the charity you donate your vehicle to will accept all types of vehicles:
Many car donation programs will accept donations of cars, motorcycles, boats, RVs, motorhomes, campers and personal watercraft. If you are thinking of making a vehicle donation make sure the charity you choose accepts your type of vehicle in the condition it is in.
Obtain the necessary IRS form to claim your car donation tax deduction:
If your combined charitable donations of non-cash items are valued at more than $500 during the tax period then you will need to fill out IRS form 8283, which can be downloaded from the IRS web site: IRS form 8283.
Check Your Vehicle Donation Value
For your easy reference and to help you decide if donating a car is right for you please visit these one of these sites to find the value of your car, boat, RV or motorcycle.
NADA Appraisal Guides: Used vehicle pricing and information for automobiles, classic cars, motorcycles, boats, recreational vehicles, aircraft and manufactured housing.
Edmunds: Edmunds provides pricing for new and used vehicles based on your zip code location.
Auto Classified Ads :
AutoTrader Visit AutoTrader.com to find listings and information on hundreds of thousands of used cars: location, pricing, & auto classifieds.
How to Donate a Car
Now more than ever, cash-strapped non-profits need financial support, and donating your car can be a great way to help. It’s also very generous.
It’s also important to remember that you can only take a charitable deduction if you itemize your deductions. So, before you give away your car, just make sure you’ve done the math and it makes sense for both you and the non-profit.
Pick a Charity
It’s very easy to give money or an in-kind donation to a non-profit. The hard part is making sure the non-profit deserves your gift and that you are confident the organization is spending its resources wisely.
The first step is to identify a charity that engages in work that is meaningful to you. For some, that will be helping to feed poor children; for others it will be the local animal shelter, and for others still it will be their religious institution.
There are thousands of non-profits to choose from. The most important thing to verify is that donating a car is possible with the charity. Most of the time that means it must be registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
Ensure You Can Donate Your Car
Once you’ve identified a couple non-profits in the area you’d like to support, find out if they accept car donations. Not all non-profits are equipped to handle that type of donation.
If they do accept cars as gifts, you can then narrow down the list. You can do this by checking each organization’s Charity Navigator rating. You can also look up their tax filings on Guidestar, where you can see their financial profile and how much their highest paid employees are compensated.
Additionally, another great way to research a charity is by visiting the non-profit to form your own opinion of the work they do.
Tax Deductions for Donated Cars
The deduction you can take on your tax return will only be based on the fair market value of the car if the charity does one or more of the following:
Uses donated cars in a way that’s significantly beneficial to the community (e.g. Meals on Wheels).
Makes major repairs to the vehicle, thus increasing the value of the car.
Sells or donates the car to a person in need at a below-market price.
Check out Kelley Blue Book or the NADA Guides to determine what the fair market value on your car might be. However, keep in mind that these book values are generalizations.
For example, if you determine that your car is worth $5,000, but you know it doesn’t start because it needs a new battery, the fair market value is $5,000 minus the price of replacing the battery.
You can learn more about taxes and car donations by visiting our Tax Deductions & Car Donations page.
DMV Requirements for Donations
From the perspective of the DMV, donating your car is similar to selling your car. All the paperwork for a title transfer plus canceling your registration still applies. The exact steps you’ll need to take will vary from state to state. Contact your local DMV office for specific requirements and details.