Donate a car to a trustworthy charity with BBB tips

Updated: Aug. 20, 2017 at 10:38 PM CDT
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(KFVS) - As radio and TV ads from different charities flood the airwaves suggesting you donate your used car or boat, Better Business Bureau (BBB) has tips to help you choose a trustworthy charity.

The condition of your car and the mission of the charity you choose will influence what happens to the car after donation.

Typically the vehicle is picked up by the nonprofit's tow truck; but then the donated vehicle could take one of a couple different courses.

If the donated vehicle is in disrepair, it may be sold to a salvage yard as scrap metal.

If the vehicle is in good condition, it may either be sold at an auction or given to a family in need.

As always, you'll want to be sure that your gift is being used for the right purposes.

"Donating a car can be a convenient option for shedding an unused vehicle," said Michelle Corey, St. Louis BBB's President and CEO.

"Donated cars can be sold for charitable proceeds or given to persons in need, yet before donating, it's important to know you're giving to the right organization."

BBB advises car donors to do their homework before they make a decision.

BBB Charity Reviews let donors know whether a charity has complied with BBB Standards for Charity Accountability, 20 standards designed to show that a charity is transparent about its operations and fund raising and that it follows good governance practices.

Charities that meet all standards qualify as BBB Accredited Charities.

BBB has more than 11,000 Charity Reviews, covering local as well as national nonprofit organizations.

BBB offers the following tips to potential car donors:

Look for written information about the charity. 

A website and/or printed materials should include the organization's name, address, phone number and mission.

The materials also should describe how your gift will be used.

If you can't find the information on the Internet, ask the charity for it.

If the charity isn't willing to provide you with the information, look for another one that is.

Check out the charity's record of accountability.

How much of the money collected actually goes into the charity's programs?

Use one or more of the sites listed below this section to review the organization's record. Make sure that any touching story or "heart-rending" request is backed up by facts and a track record.

Donate to a charity that handles the transaction themselves.

This is a way to ensure that the charity will keep most of the dollars generated by your donation.

Some charities use a for-profit broker to handle the transaction.

The charity then only receives a percentage of the sale, a flat fee, or a portion of what remains after the broker pays expenses. If you must use a broker, find out what percentage (or amount) the charity receives.

Deliver the vehicle to the charity yourself.

You'll save the charity the expense of having to pay someone to pick up your donation.

That way more of your donation goes to the charity's programs not overhead.

Properly transfer the vehicle to the charity. Properly completing the paperwork assigning ownership to the charity ends your responsibility for the vehicle. If you fail to do this, you could still be held responsible for anything that occurs with the vehicle. Make sure you keep a copy of the records.

The charity must provide a written acknowledgment to the donor.

This is necessary for the donor to claim a tax deduction.

See IRS tax deduction requirements for more details.

Determine and document the fair market value of the vehicle. According to the IRS, the fair market value cannot exceed the private party sales price listed in a used vehicle pricing guide.

If the charity sells your vehicle rather than keeps it for use (and most sell), then you may deduct only the exact sale price.

Before you do business with a charity or company, check it out at or call toll free at 888-996-3887. Give but give wisely.

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