Donating used cars is now a very popular method for getting rid of older vehicles that you no longer want.  There are many charities that you can help by donating your car to them, just search “California car donation charity” in your favorite search engine to find a large list of charities.

For any donation, you should go through the following quick checklist.

  • Check out the charity
  • See if you’ll get a tax benefit
    • You can deduct contributions to charity only if you itemize deductions on Schedule A of Form 1040.
  • Check the value of your vehicle
    • The amount you may deduct for a vehicle contribution depends on what the charity does with the vehicle as reported in the written acknowledgment you receive from the charity.
  • See what your responsibilities are as a donor to a charity

More: Cheap car insurance in California

California's Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are transfer requirements for gifted vehicles are different?
    • Yes
  • Can I transfer ownership without paying renewal fees?
    • If the vehicle is not going to be operated, be sure to file a "Planned Non-Operation status with the DMV and then a "transfer only" may be done with registration payment.
  • Do I still need a Smog Certificate?
    • Yes.  If you are receiving a gifted vehicle, you will still need the certificate to register the vehicle.
  • Do I need to pay a Use Tax?
    • If your vehicle was acquired as a gift, you are not charged a use tax.  You must apply for this exemption with the Statement of Facts (REG 256) form.
  • What is the Car Scrappage - Voluntary Accelerated Vehicle Retirement (VAVR) program?
    • The Bureau of Automotive Repair administers this program. Its purpose is to get old polluting vehicles off of the road.  If you vehicle has failed its last Smog Check Test and meets other eligibility requirements, they will provide anywhere from $1000 to $1500 for you to retire or scrap your vehicle.  Find out more on the Air Resources Board website.
  • Where can I found out more about the organizations that solicit car donations?
    • The Donate for Charity site has a list.
    • For more information about how much each charity receives in auto donations, table 6 of this report has a detailed list as of 2014.  It's around page 292 out of 338 in the pdf file.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What can I donate?
    • Most charities will accept cars, trucks, vans, boats and more.  Please check with your charity to be sure.
  • Does my vehicle need to work?
    • Your vehicle does not usually need to be in working order.
  • Will the charity come get my vehicle?
    • Many charities will pick up your vehicle.  However, you will need to find out before you make the donation.
  • Is my donation tax deductible?
  • What happens to my vehicle?
    • Depending on the vehicle’s condition, it may be used by the organization for transportation, it may be sold as is, it may be sold for scrap metal, or they may find other uses for it.

Federal guidelines for vehicle donations can be found in this pdf file,