You’ve decided to donate your car to your favorite public radio station, and we thank you for that!
The next step is to figure out what it’s worth.
It’s important to know the fair market value for your car, because its sale price will determine both the amount of your contribution, and the amount of a deduction you can claim come tax time. All donated vehicles will be resold in some fashion, and the station will provide you with a receipt for your taxes. If your car is worth less than $500, you can simply deduct its fair market value.
To get an idea what your car is worth, check the free valuation tool at BestRide.com. Just enter your car’s make, model, year, mileage, and overall condition to get an idea of the trade in value for your car, which is typically a solid notch or two below what you’d get for your car if you sold it yourself.
The tool is only a guide, and you need to be brutally honest when assessing your car’s condition. That means taking a critical eye to that dent in the door you haven’t thought about in years, or to the cracked lens or missing bits of trim. Experts say the reality is that most older cars really are in no better than “fair” condition-- even if they’re still running just fine.
“These tools can be useful,” says Joe Hearn of Advanced Remarketing Services, or ARS, whose company has handled hundreds of thousands of donated vehicles over the years. ARS processes all the cars that are donated through Car Talk Vehicle Donation Services. “But you have to be realistic.”
Many other factors can affect the value of your car, from its color, to the time of year. Convertibles, for example, are generally worth more in the spring. And larger factors are also at work, from the state of the overall used car market, to the economy in general and the price of scrap metal. For example, global scrap prices have been at or near historic lows for quite a while, and that isn’t expected to change soon. That pushes down used values, especially for older cars at or near the end of their life.
If you’re donating a vehicle that’s in good shape and only a few years old, and if you feel inspired, it may be worth making small repairs like installing a new battery or fixing a flat tire if the car has been sitting. Basic repairs can increase the value, and almost any car is worth more if it can be driven away under its own power.
Either way, fear not. Your prized chariot will be going to a good cause, and Car Talk Vehicle Donation Services will make sure that your donation generates the most bang for the buck for your local NPR or PBS station. “We make sure that every contribution is used to its maximum potential,” says ARS’ Hearn.
While you’re clearing out the driveway, remember that your donation doesn’t have to be a car. Car Talk’s program will take motorcycles, motor homes, boats, golf carts, pretty much any type of vehicle you can think of. (Note: if you have a space shuttle, please contact us directly!)
When your donation is complete, you’ll get more than a tax deduction. Like Chris and Pam Henry of Florida, you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that your pride and joy can be put to good use.
“One day I heard Car Talk and the guys were talking about donating a car. It was like a lightning bolt went off. I honestly started crying because I knew it was the right thing to do. We had three cars and we didn't need Oscar anymore. I depended on Oscar for years, just like I depend on WGCU. Oscar had served me so well. He needed to go serve someone else.”
To get started with your donation, call 1 (866) 789-8627 or drop by the Car Talk Vehicle Donation Program.