Don’t Give a Car to Charity

Posted by: Steve Marr in General Business on Mar 29, 2019

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You have likely seen ads or heard radio commercials urging you to give your car to charity to help an organization and obtain a tax deduction for yourself. Generally, I feel this is not the best exercise of stewardship. The easy part is that you sign a piece of paper and get rid of the car whether it works or not.

Most organizations may not be able to get the best price for donated cars. Also, tax advisors have told me that you have an increased chance of being audited by the friendly IRS when you claim a deduction for a donated car.

The more effective way of moving a used car is to take photographs of the vehicle in the best possible light. Then try to sell it on one of the local auto trader magazines or Craigslist. In most circumstances you can get a better cash settlement than the organization could get. Then, simply write a check for the same amount to the charity of your choice, not just the charity that does a good job of marketing car donations.

I don’t want to black ball organizations that accept cars because some, like the Salvation Army, have an outstanding record at utilizing funds responsibly. I know very little about the organizations that accept these cars, so I can’t verify whether the money is used wisely or not or for what purpose, or how much is designated for administrative and other costs.

The next time you are tempted to simply unload a car to a charity, think about how it could be an opportunity to fine-tune your marketing to sell a vehicle and donate a larger check to a Christian charity that you know does a reputable job. Jesus reminded us that every dollar is important when he said, “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time?” (Matthew 24:25, ESV)

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