How To Donate Your Car To Charity.


How to donate your car to charity. In my car owning history, I have had two cars whereby they have become unusable.  Not only has age and wear and tear on the vehicle caught up,  they had become too unreliable to keep putting good money after bad in terms of repair costs when they continually broke down.  Seals were going, leaks were happening and the rust in the vehicles bodies started to get worse.  The two cars that I owned would not have fetched much on the market if I sold them privately and I would not have wanted to pass my problems on to another buyer to know that I have given my headache to another.  My experience with vehicles when they get down to the real “junk status” has been two cars, each with substantial kilomters and age on the vehicle body.  The two cars were a garish army green Nissan Bluebird (hey, not knocking all the gaudy green Bluebird lovers out there, the car worked a charm every day for me) and an old Black 1981 Volvo 6 cylinder, 245GL (a fuel guzzler) that ended up sitting in the garage gathering dust and spiders.

So what was the decision with these two vehicles? They’re no good to me. If I got the towies from the wreckers at Salisbury (Brisbane suburb) then of course they will offer cash sight unseen which will be next to nothing, $100 to $200 bucks at best, they would come and collect it and that’s it.  As simple as it sounds, thats what my only option was at the time.  If there was another way to “pass it on” ie. pass on some benefit then I would have chosen that method to offload the vehicles at the time which was around 2006/7.

For the purposes of this article I revisited my junk car scenario and what services are out there TODAY beyond just a tow away to the local Salisbury/Marooka wrecking yard.  Here enters the world of car donations.   As mentioned, at the time I wanted to dispose of the vehicles, there were no options available to donate cars operating in Brisbane let alone Australia for that matter online.

So let’s look at car donation services in Australia and what the options are today if you need to get rid of junk or sick cars:

Car donations – background – Car donations are the practice of giving away no-longer-wanted vehicles (cars, motorbikes, vans, etc.) to charitable organisations.

Car Donation Services

Donating old motor vehicles has become big business in the US, but not so popular in Australia. There are even charity telephone lines where you can ring to donate your motor vehicle in America and have a list of over 300 charities to choose from. That service doesn’t exist in Australia. In the US, there are tax deductions for donating cars to charity. Car donation schemes for IRS tax purposes have often been criticised as another tax shelter but increasingly US charities have started to rely on auto donations given by over 1 million Americans annually. The “tax deduction factor” seems to be a large motivator for giving junk vehicles in the US. There are actually situations where deductions in the US are allowable for more expensive vehicles but require a valuation to be done which has lead to much of the areas of complaints about the car donation system there where autos, boats and even aeroplanes were being donated!

Tax deductability and Car donations vs the Australian Taxation Office is largely out of the question here for me to explain as I am neither an accountant and everyones circumstances are different. I am sure 99.9% of readers however arent going to run off an incurr an accountants fee just to find out about donating a $50-$500 unrunning motor vehicle to charity.

The ATO does have rules on donating to charity and these quite clearly spell out the requirements you need to claim any deductions if that be the case.

I am hoping, though, for those reading this article that getting a tax deduction for donating your vehicle is not the primary motivator and that helping others (via the charity services) is.

Why would you want to give your old car to charity?

  1. Dealing directly with the charity concerned.
  2. Usually a clean and straightforward process.  Kids Under Cover have loads of information on their website for example how to donate a car.  Many other charities however in Australia aren’t geared up for car donations to the extent KUC is.
  3. There are no arguments.  KUC have a deal with Manheim in Melbourne and they will come and pickup the car.
  4. Cost savings – usually the pickup is free.  Sometimes (but not always) you have to pay to get rid of a vehicle and a large expense could be the towing charges.
  5. No time wasted placing advertisements and waiting for “buyers” to turn up who might in a lot of cases be tyre kickers.  I had a rare Volvo sports car with a lot of US bits and pieces and people turned up to check it out and a lot of “ooh.. ahhh” about the stearing wheel, the lights etc but in the end they were just lookers.
  6. No cost – No auction cost, no advertising fees.
  7. Get that warm fuzzy feeling of donating your car to charity and making a contribution to youth homelessness if you are using an organisation like Kids Under Cover or an educational institution to help apprentices learn.
  8. Break the burn.  Get a load off your mind and stop those costs of maintaining an “eye sore” in your yard or registration or third party car insurance or mechanical repairs.  If you donate it, the car is gone.  You may even get money back which is a good feeling in anyones books if you cancel your registration and hand in the number plates you should get a refund for the remaining registration.  I have put some contact websites to the different transport departments below about registration cancellations.
  9. You may or may not receive a tax deduction for your donation although in my books there’s nothing like a #7 than doing it for a tax deduction.
  10. You can donate your car 24/7 via the website online through KUC’s website.

How to find a charity to donate your vehicle to.

There are many charities out there, many take donations of just about anything, usually furniture but many make it tough to explain on their websites (if at all) whether they receive car donations or have a vehicle donation system in place or actually are interested as to that offered by charities such as Kids Under Cover.

Mixed in with Google search terms are Google AdWords.  You will likely notice some are advertising wanting motorvehicles for donation.  I decided to check these advertisements and saw that these were just keyword advertisements and the charity concerned for example did not have a car donation system in place and the page linked to their “typical” charity programs which they administered.

Some Google advertising can be deceptive and have been purely put there as a “lead capture” but when you click through there’s actually no information about donating your vehicle such as Islamic-relief Australia’s (IRA) advertising which is pictured as an example below.  On the IRA website there was nothing to tell me about the car donation service, there was nothing about pickup, requirements to donate a vehicle nothing so be aware of lead ads to charities that simply aren’t geared up to Kids Under Cover are.

I’m not picking at IRA’s charity efforts, i am just pointing that as an example of a prominant google advertisement for the search word as if i were an average person willing to donate my vehicle and looking for a charity has a proper system setup for taking car donations from people.

google ad for car donation services

[Above] – Example of a google advertisement. Australian charity wanting cars. 

As far as it goes… there seriously is an open market in Australia for charities to gear up a system and receive donated vehicles from people.

There are other organisations such as the Australian Kidney Foundation’s website which I support that mention that if you reside in Melbourne or Adelaide metropolitan areas “your old car can by fully recycled and you can make a contribution to Kidney Health Australia. You will receive an income tax receipt for the value of your donation.  If you reside in other areas, call your local car recycler to arrange collection and then send us your recycling cheque”.  Thats it. Thats all the Australian Kidney foundation mention on their website but thats a lot more than some of the other organisations out there.

So what are some other options to donate your motor vehicle?

There aren’t many in Australia that stand out as “wanting cars” for donation. One charity that has been around a while is Kids Under Cover (KUC) and more recently another organisation called Hand Brake Turn.

KUC are a Richmond, Melbourne organisation.  In terms of online presence, KUC seems the most popular charity if you google vehicle donation services for vehicle donations in Australia, and they appear to have a very accurate but clear system explaining about their need for vehicles, how you arrange collection, the collection and auction process. The system has given KUC a substantial boost with over 900 vehicles donated to KUC and over $500,000 in donations raised in 2013.  It’s certainly been a nice earner for KUC that the other charities haven’t yet established a presence.

KUC target youth homelessness and at-risk youngsters between 12 and 25 years old. The idea is quite simple that KUC follow. The funds received from the sales of the vehicles (100% of the money) goes towards building homes and offering scholarships and mentorships to homeless youth.

Basically, you ring, KUC arranges with Manheim vehicle auctions in Melbourne to come and get the car and the vehicle auctioned off via Manheims, which are said to number around 40 cars for KUC a time. Manheims is a national auction house and one of the largest auctioneers of motor vehicles in Melbourne.

KUC also accept donations of trucks, trailers, caravans, boats and motor cycles. KUC is pretty much the only charity currently at the time of writing in Australia that offers such a service where you can give these types of goods for donation.

KUC accept donations from individuals AND car dealerships.

What about donating your vehicle to an educational institution?

Donating your old car to an educational institution may be another option.
After all, the mechanical apprentices need working examples, and what better way to provide for young peoples education is to give them a car to work on.

Hand Brake Turn (HBT) is an organisation offering youth scholarships in Victoria. The money that HBT receive goes into these scholarship programmes.

Hand brake Turn offers Certificate courses in automotive. In particular courses in motor mechanics, panel beating, spray painting, car detailing. They have offices in Dandenong and Sunshine. I have placed the telephone numbers below for you. There is also an HBT centre up in New South Wales.

One final thought is ringing up a local TAFE college that offers mechanical courses and getting the vehicle to them.

Problems you might encounter – The problem is the logistics and towing charges. For many people looking to donate their cars, this is not an option.  The other thing is to make sure that your car finance has been cancelled, and the vehicle is unencumbered.  KUC  cannot accept vehicles that are encumbered by car finance. You will need to terminate your car finance contract prior to donating the car to any charity.

Does the vehicle have to be running? – Some charities accept cars that aren’t running.  For education purposes, there’s no need for the car to be running.  The KUC website mentions that the vehicle doesn’t have to be running.  KUC accept both registered and unregistered vehicles.  If you want to have a clean “offload” you can deregister the car, return the plates to the transport office and have KUC pickup the vehicle in an “unregistered” “as-is, where is” state.

Roads authority compliance – Donating your car “as is.”

You will need to have the car deregistered and unscrew the licence plates from the car and return these plates to your local motor transport office in your state. It’s critical that you grab the plates and preread the:

Resources List:
The following services were mentioned in the article above:
Kidney Car Hotline 1800 454 363 to arrange collection (of your vehicle)
Kids Under Cover – 1800 801 633.
Handbrake Turn – Offering Cert. II in Automotive course. To call the Dandenong, Victoria office – 03.97931466 or Sunshine, Victorian centre call (03)93116273. Their website is here.
NSW RTA – cancellation of registration or here

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