A California vehicle donation here in the “Golden State” may help someone in need in your own community. An entire family could possibly end up getting helped by your generosity. And you may even get a tax deduction along the way. But these are not necessarily the best benefits.
Are there special rules for donating my vehicle in California?
Just a few special rules for the CA DMV (Division of Motor Vehicles: You must leave the license plates on the vehicle (most states you are required to remove them), and you must fill out a Release of Liability form. This form can be downloaded from the CA DMV website or filled out in person.
A tax break is just the start: Depending on your situation, you could immediately free your premises of a possible eyesore. You might get additional parking space and/or regain space in your garage (or perhaps your yard). You’ll be able to circumvent the hassles as well as cost of having to refurbish an old motor vehicle in order to get it ready to sell – not to mention having to advertise it and find a buyer for it. These jobs are hassles and require your time to be able to complete them – your valuable time.
Free towing from your place: You may be thinking that repairing and selling your older car may get you a little more money as compared to donating it. Although this may be true, your car donation in CA can instantly take care of these time-consuming inconveniences. Remember your time isn’t free, yet most non profit organizations will tow your car or truck for you – and for free. So this really is like money in the bank for you.
Non-running vehicles often accepted: And if your car or truck is non-running – and maybe even up on blocks, it is still more than worth it for the charity: The salvage yard will pay the charity enough money to cover towing plus some leftover for the needy. And in case your donated vehicle is valued above $500 (figured through Kelly Blue Book or NADA), you can claim more than the standard five hundred bucks tax deduction!
Beware of bogus “charities:” California has many bogus car donation “charities.” Most of them are eventually busted and deactivated, but for every one that gets shut down, a new one appears. So how do you recognize which of them are legitimate?
One way is to check that any California charity you may be considering is registered with the state. Here’s a link to the CA Charitable Organization Financial Database search: http://cfr.doj.ca.gov/.
Another link from the Attorney General of California is the Registry of Charitable Trusts (RCT), which can be found on this page: http://caag.state.ca.us/charities/statutes.htm.
Charity ‘watchdog’ websites: It turns out the answer is really simple – An easy search online using at least one of the online companies which qualifies charities based on a variety of factors. Simply type the name of the charitable organization in the search box on the ‘charity watchdog’ site. Or you could query the California Attorney General Office’s website, or the Secretary of State website. Most states, like California, require nonprofits to register with them, and have searchable databases on their websites.
But another caution here: Nearly all of the Attorney Generals (including California) are quick to emphasize that although a charity is registered with them does not imply that the charity is necessarily a good one. Registration means exactly that – that the charitable organization registered as required.
It’s interesting to note that part of the registration with the states (in the ones that require charities to register) is the requirement to submit financial reports every year. However, it is easy for the bogus charitable groups to fudge these reports, submitting figures that make them appear legit and ‘above board.’
So check the charity out at two sites: Because we now understand that fraudulent car donation charities may be registered with the state of California, it’s a wise idea to check out any charity you may be considering at a minimum of two websites:
Not only confirm that the organization is registered with California, but it is also listed ‘in good standing’ with one or more of the web based ‘charity watchdog’ agencies.
You having nothing to lose and everything to gain! So now you know how to choose a high quality vehicle donation charity here in California. Not only will you be doing something truly good for somebody or some family in your community, you may even get the tax deduction. And don’t forget all those time-saving and hassle-saving fringe benefits of donating your old vehicle!
By Chuck Brown
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