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Donate a Car in Washington State

For those who are looking to get rid of a vehicle, there are quite a few options. Sure, you could attempt to sell or trade in your old vehicle. However, you might be disappointed in the value. If your vehicle does not run, you might be even more upset with the result. Regardless of why you are looking to get rid of a vehicle, there is another option.

Donating a car in Washington State is easier than you may realize. Not only does it get that old vehicle out of your driveway, but it also comes with a great incentive: the ability to file a tax deduction. Below, we give you all the information you need to donate your vehicle.

What Types of Vehicles Can I Donate?

While certain charities may only take a particular type of item, many will accept almost all types. This includes cars, trucks, passenger vans, fleet vehicles, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, trailers and boats. (It is always best to check with your charity of choice before assuming they accept all vehicles.)

What Will I Need in Order to Donate My Vehicle?

For most charities, only basic information is needed in order to donate your vehicle. To start, you will need your name and contact information. You will also need to provide a description of your vehicle. This includes the make, model, year, and color of your car, as well as the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). You will also need to let the charity know whether or not the vehicle is currently operational.

If the car is not operational and will need to be picked up, you will need to arrange that with the charity. In more cases, this requires an address to where the vehicle is located.

When the car is transferred into the possession of the charity, you will need to provide them with a signed title and any car keys.

What About Older or Non-Operational Vehicles?

Older vehicles are generally accepted by all charities that take vehicle donations. (After all, most people are trying to get rid of old or broken down vehicles – not their new ones!) Most charities will arrange to pick up any vehicle that is non-operational within a certain radius. To do so, a licensed and insured towing company will come out to your location to pick up the vehicle.

What Do I Need to Do to Prepare My Vehicle for Donation?

You do not need to do much to prepare your vehicle for donation. If you cannot locate the title to your vehicle, you will need to obtain a new one. You will also need to remove any personal belongings you wish to keep.

Remember to remove your tags from the vehicle before transferring ownership! You will need to turn these into the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in order alert them to the sale or donation of the car.

What Happens to a Donate Vehicle?

When you donate a vehicle to charity, there are a number of things that may happen. In most situations, however, the vehicle is auctioned off. (The typical auction buyer is a licensed car dealer or a licensed vehicle recycler.)

Is My Donated Vehicle Tax-Deductible?

Yes! If you donate your vehicle to a recognized charity, they will be able to provide you with the information you need in order to file your donation with the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS. (This usually comes in the form of a written receipt, which should be received within 30 days of your donation.) So long as you itemize your deductions, your vehicle donation can be included as such. (If you are unsure of how to do this, it is best to speak with a tax professional.) It is important to note, however, that charitable donations are only tax deductible when you do not receive any goods or services in exchange for your vehicle.

Is There a Set Tax Deduction Limit on Vehicle Donations?

When it comes to a vehicle donation, the tax deductible limit is determined by the value of your car. Not all vehicles have an equal value. However, the IRS does lay out certain guidelines. For vehicles that are greater than $500 in value, you may make a tax deduction that is equal to the actual sales price. (You will need to file IRS Form 8283 if your car is worth more than $500.) However, for those cars that are worth $500 or less, you have a choice. You may choose to deduct whichever is greater: the sales price of the vehicle or its fair market value.

In most situations, the minimum tax deduction is $500. However, depending on the value of your vehicle, you may make a larger deduction.

How Do I Know What My Vehicle Is Worth?

Certain charities can give you estimate of the value of your vehicle based on the specifics you provide. However, there are other ways to determine the value of your vehicle. The Kelly Blue Book (KBB) Dealer Trade In Value is perhaps the closest estimate you can obtain. Remember, these vehicles are auctioned off. That means it is highly unlikely that you will get the same price for your car if it were privately sold. Peddle.com is another source you may use to help determine the value of your car.

Do Your Homework

Not all charities are created equal. In some situations, a for-profit company will accept a vehicle donation on behalf of a charity. These companies then sell the vehicle at a wholesale auction. Once this occurs, they kick a portion of the proceeds back to the charity and keep the rest of the money. Watchdog groups, like Charity Navigator, can help you determine what companies are actively doing this. Make sure you do your homework if you are looking to maximize the donation to your charity of choice.

Final Thoughts

There are hundreds of charities in Washington state. If you have a vehicle you are no longer in need of and want to donate, there is always a charity ready to help take it off your hands. However, it is important to make sure the charity is a qualified 501(c)(3) organization to ensure our donation nets you the maximum tax deduction possible.

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