• Four sad dogs in a filthy cage at a TN puppy mill

    Reputable car donation charities

    You have a used vehicle that you’d like to donate to a worthy cause. You’ve done your homework and discovered that not all vehicle donation programs are created equal. In fact, many charitable organizations don’t even operate their own vehicle donation programs. Instead, they use a broker or middleman.

    In many cases, the majority of the proceeds from the sale of your vehicle goes to the so-called middleman, leaving just crumbs for the charity. And in others, outright scams exist that have nothing to do with charity other than the word “charity” appearing in their name.

    At this point, you may be wondering if trading in your old car for peanuts to a dealer is better than the crumbs many charities are willing to accept for your vehicle donation. Before you throw your hands skyward and declare that it’s all one big scam, let’s dig a little deeper into the charitable vehicle donation industry and take a look under the hood.

    Who runs legitimate car donation charities?

    The answer to this question begins with a larger question: Is the charity behind the vehicle program a legitimate charity? The minimum requirement for a charity to be considered legitimate is being classified as a nonprofit. This classification is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

    There are 27 different kinds of nonprofit classifications maintained by the IRS, but the most common is 501(c)(3). Most of the nonprofits, including the Humane Society of the United States, operating vehicle donation programs fall under the 501(c)(3) classification. If the charity behind the program isn’t classified as a nonprofit by the IRS, then keep looking. After all, you want your donated vehicle to benefit a worthy cause.

    Direct charitable car donation programs

    It would be great if there were no costs associated with the vehicle donation process and 100% of the proceeds derived from selling donated vehicles went to fund the charitable work of nonprofits. Practical matters come into play and the vast majority of nonprofits use a fulfillment company to process vehicle donations. Dedicated staff assist donors with paperwork, schedule pickup and coordinate the sale.

    The cost and logistics of running a charitable vehicle donation program is prohibitive for most nonprofits—even the largest. It just makes good financial sense to enlist the services of a reputable fulfillment partner to handle these functions.

    Charities can then focus on what they do best. In the case of the HSUS, it’s working hard to end cruelty and neglect for all animals. Sometimes a middleman is a valuable partner. The HSUS carefully vetted its vehicle fulfillment partner and an impressive 80% of a donated vehicle’s value is returned to the organization to fund our lifesaving work.

    Car donation reviews

    It’s always a good idea to read online reviews for products and services in which you have an interest in doing business. The same goes for evaluating charities and their vehicle donation programs.

    But as any savvy consumer of online info knows by now, it’s essential to vet the sites doing the reviewing. Not all online review sites provide reliable information and more than a few are biased, or worse, exist solely to attack reputable organizations due to conflicting interests.

    As with finding a legitimate vehicle donation program, there are two steps involved in evaluating review sites:

    1. Evaluate the charity: Its work and mission, financial statements and leadership.
    2. Evaluate the organization’s vehicle donation program. It’s OK to inquire about the amount going to the charity and ease of the donation process (scheduling, pickup, receipts for tax reporting and support).

    For the Humane Society of the United States, start by learning about our mission to help animals of all kinds around the world. Then have a look at the HSUS’s IRS Form-990 to evaluate our expenses and income. This is a key document for evaluating any nonprofit and is what the major online charity evaluators utilize in their reviews.

    Best place to donate your car to charity

    You should be commended for doing your homework prior to selecting a charity to which you’ll donate your used vehicle. It may seem like a lot of extra work, but it only requires asking the right questions and then looking in the right places.

    We hope the resources on will provide you with the information required to make the call that’s right for you, so you can rest assured that the benefits from your donation will get the most mileage and will go where it can do the most good!

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