There’s a Free Car Waiting for You … If You Have a Disability
When a person with a disability or a disabling medical condition needs a car, finding an affordable vehicle can be a challenge to say the least. Most of the time, having access to a car is not a luxury, it is a necessity.
Cities are generally easier for people with disabilities to get around in depending on public transportation and its flexibility to accommodate wheelchairs.
When a disabled person lives in a more suburban area, public transportation usually boils down to buses and vans with ramps or lifts.
When a disabled person lives in a rural area your number of transportation opportunities goes down quickly. One’s being independent by having their own car is many times not just a personal choice but a necessity. They don’t always have the luxury of a friend or public service to get them to the market or a doctor’s appointment.
Where the Problems Start
The first problem that people with a disability run into is that usually the cost of even a mediocre vehicle is often insurmountable on their meager income. Then the vehicle has to be modified to fit their needs and abilities. There is however an ever-increasing number of ways for a disabled person to get into their own vehicle. We must first start to think outside the box to most successfully do this when there is already too much month left at the end of the money.
Even if you can’t find the FREE vehicle you want, there are many sources for grants or buy-downs by various companies (because they get a good write-off at tax time). Various government programs are also available. Every method must be tried. We are going to tell you things to look for and how to protect yourself along the way.
The hard (but not impossible) work is generally in the search for a vehicle you need. The paperwork to become a legal owner of a donated vehicle can be anything from a single sheet of paper and title change to a tall stack of forms, usually from government offices. Fear Not! We have some plans you might be able to use.
Getting into Position as a Vehicle Owner
Don’t be shy about asking for help. Ask friends and family if they know anyone who might want to get rid of a vehicle that fits your needs. Be straightforward with them. I am sure they understand your situation better than anyone and they would probably be honored to help you out. Getting humble in your request really beats the alternative.
Their help may be something like helping you to make your plea on every Social Media that you can find. Hand write letters for them to pass out to others asking them to do the same. Emails are a bit distant and cold. They can easily be deleted or misplaced where a sincerely humble letter lets you reach out and touch someone. I would only include your email if you are sure of who you are working with. When you do talk to someone, try to do it face to face. If they can help you great. If not, leave a letter stating your needs and contact information. Who knows, they just might give the information to someone else that can help.
I know that we spent many hours in prayer, seeking a vehicle for our family. That worked great for us.
Many churches have programs to accept donated vehicles. If they need work there are usually mechanics who are members of the church who will help you get it on the road. If that doesn’t work take a couple of days to call local repair shops to see if they have vehicles which meet your needs that have been abandoned on their property. They are many times delighted to get rid of the vehicle. Perhaps if you can work out a plan to pay them for repairs, everyone wins. Maybe they will settle for the tax benefits.
Government Free or Cost Assisted Programs
Governments like the U.S. or the UK, usually offer tax exemptions, loans or grants to help you get a vehicle and, if necessary, make modifications to it so that the vehicle will best fit your individual capabilities.
In the U.S. there are also programs to help pay for any vehicle modifications through Federal and private insurance benefits. Search online for government funding opportunities and programs in your area to learn more about what’s available near you.
Once again, charities and churches are a good place to start.
Our Free Car Story
A few years ago, when our disabled son became too much for my wife or I to lift from the wheelchair to the car and then from the car to the wheelchair, it became evident that we had to do something different. My wife had broken her back, legs, and feet in a third-story fall so even though she has healed enough to walk, lifting that much was out of the question. I am just old with a bad back and arthritis.
We had a 10-year-old Camry that was about to give up the ghost anyway.
We were all three living on my social security and a small disability income so a new car (or in most cases even used vehicles) were not within our limited financial reach. After racking my brain on this situation, I got this idea of looking on the internet for any available programs, government or public based that might be able to help us out.
Choosing a Private Non-Profit Company
Within a week we were fortunate enough to find a wonderful private company called
located in New Jersey who, purely as a charitable way to serve disabled people, has connections to people who have vehicles they want to donate and then get the tax break.
Special Kids Fund just served as a go-between by getting the leads for the vehicles being donated and hooking the people donating vehicles up with people needing the vehicles. That way there was no profiting or liability to be concerned with.
Some generous folks close to us donated a 1996 GMC Savana 1500, customized travel van (above) that already had a lift installed. I was a bit worried about the age of the van but when they brought the van to us it only had 29,000 miles and looked brand new! What an absolute blessing that was! (Thank You Lord!).
I signed one document assuming all responsibility for the vehicle and then the title, purchased new license plates, and we were on the road to doctor’s appointments, hospitals, specialists, movies, and our favorite hamburger place, pretty much like “normal” families. Here we are about 6 years later, and the van still only has about 45,000 miles on it and it runs like a top.
I want to point out that we were lucky. Things just worked out perfectly at every step. We also made some very good friends that day who we are still in touch with.
This is NOT a Pipe-Dream
This true story is here to point out that this idea of a free vehicle is not a pipe-dream but reality. It is one of those win-win situations where everyone involved gets blessed (and perhaps a nice tax write-off).
Nothing Beats this Feeling
If we were to have to go through the process again, I would do it the same way. I would again look for people or organizations willing to donate a vehicle. You may spend substantial time searching the internet, but it is well worth it. We will provide you with links to various sources later in this article.
Our Wonderful Veterans
If you are a veteran and your disability is the result of an injury while serving in any branch of the armed forces, there are government and private sources to get you behind the wheel so you can make all of those trips to the VA hospital. Just be persistent. You’ve earned it the hard way. This veteran is getting a custom van from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
Complete Required Paperwork
The paperwork you need will depend on your state. The safest way to make sure paperwork is complete is to contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles and check with them for the necessary requirements.
In most states:
- You will need the certificate of title signed by the Seller to transfer the vehicle into your name.
- When a disabled person as the new owner takes possession of the vehicle they should be present when the vehicle is picked up to sign the necessary documents.
- You or the person with you should verify that the VIN on the title matches the one on the vehicle. That is usually located at the far left side of the dash and can be easily read through the windshield.
- Make sure the odometer reading from the vehicle is what is entered on the title as well.
- Sign the back of the title where indicated as Buyer Signature.
- For your safety, make sure you get photocopies of everything for your files.
Once you have the vehicle in hand, whether or not it has been modified for your use just remember that the battle is about half done. If it is a standard stock vehicles then the modifications are next.
Be sure to wrap up this end of the process with sincere humble THANK YOU LETTERS to everyone involved.
How to Donate a Vehicle
First, if you are one of the kind-hearted, generous, angelic (you can see how we in the disabled community feel about you) people who are taking the time to find out how to best donate a vehicle, we want to start off with a sincere THANK YOU.
Donating to a charity is a great way and, in many cases, the most cost-effective way to get rid of a vehicle that you no longer want or need.
My Suggestion is to By-Pass the Middle Man
We do however hope you will choose to by-pass the middle man and arrange for a direct donation to the receiving party. If you leave us a comment, we will connect you to the company(s) that do this as a REAL charity, you know, no profit to them.
Just make sure that your donation really goes where you want it. You shouldn’t just advertise “FREE Vehicle….” because every scam artist around will be pounding on your door. Many good charities accept used vehicles but again remember that lots of times the vehicles are sold to pay for no more than office parties and seminars where there is little to no accountability. This still leaves the disabled people without proper transportation.
Trust But Verify
You MUST verify any organization or person and I recommend you always check with the BBB and other local authorities as to the validity and track record of the given charity. A boat or airplane also qualifies as a vehicle and these are almost assuredly sold, and the donation from the sale may never reach the intended recipients. Also check with the charity you are thinking of donating to since steps to donating to them may vary slightly from one organization to another.
Is It Really a Charity?
Some of the more popular vehicle donation sites go so far as to brag about 75% of money going to help people. If you re-read this carefully this means that these sites make a cool 25% profit. A lot of businesses would love a 25% profit especially when the big-ticket items are donated to their business to begin with! The Special Kids Fund where we got our van takes NO profit. Now that is a real charity.
Rewards for Donators
If you decide to donate, I can guarantee that you will feel wonderful for doing so. Here is a nice reward for donating your vehicle: You may also qualify for a tax write-off, though the rules are somewhat complex. Just ask the charities themselves, even if you are not donating to them. Then make sure you verify all of this with your favorite tax person so that you also know what exact documentation is required in your area. They usually can tell you how to best handle donating a vehicle to maximize your tax benefits.
Depending on local and federal laws and your car’s condition, you may need to have it appraised before you give it to the charity or the individual if you intend to claim more than $5,000 as a tax deduction. It usually isn’t a problem, but we do want every person donating to be careful.
Use a Qualifying Non-Profit if Donating to a Charity
Check whether the charity you wish to use is a qualifying non-profit. This is important if you want your contribution to be tax deductible. Almost all 501(c)3 charities and religious organizations qualify. You can double check by using the EO (elegible organizations) Select Check tool at the IRS . Remember that churches won’t be listed in the IRS directory though they still qualify. You can also call toll-free (877) 829-5500 to check nonprofit status.
While you can write off a donation to any qualifying nonprofit organization or individual. It’s probably a good idea to look for charities that advertise for vehicles. Most humanitarian aid organizations have a setup online that helps with the process of taking the vehicle and converting it into a donation. I still like the idea of donating directly to the new disabled owner but if you want to use a charity, pick a reputable one.
If this is a charity, then they will want to gather information from you about the vehicle you are donating. Have the following information handy when you call:
- Make of the vehicle
- body type
- vehicle identification number (VIN)
- current mileage
- date last driven
Complete the Required Paperwork Required for You to Properly Donate
The paperwork you need will depend on your state. The safest way to make sure paperwork is complete is to contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles and check with them.
In most states:
- You will need the certificate of title to transfer the vehicle.
- You will have to fill out the certificate of title in the name of the agency or individual that picks up vehicles for the charity.
- If you are donating directly to an individual, that person should be there when the vehicle is picked up. Verify their identity and make sure they sign the title as the new owner/buyer.
- Hopefully you are donating directly to the new owner. If you are donating to a person or family, you will need their information on all the documents to transfer ownership directly to them.
- You also must print and sign your name in the seller field on the certificate of title.
- If you are working with a charity, when the vehicle has been sold, you should receive an acknowledgement letter from the charity. Hold onto this letter. It contains information about the sale and can be used for tax deduction.
- Instead, you might receive Form 1098-C from the charity.
- You can also surrender your license plates. Each state has its own process for transferring ownership of a vehicle. Generally, you can keep your plates and use them with your new car. However, if you want to surrender them, then you can drop them off at your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
- Each state has an approved form for the person donating the vehicle to complete that officially notifies the DMV of the vehicle’s change of ownership. This helps prevent any liability of the person donating the vehicle.
- If the donating person decides to sell the car outright and then donate the money to their favorite charity make sure that you get a receipt from the charity for the money donated to them. This should include the all the charity’s information and the amount given. Again, you will need this at tax time.
I would suggest that you copy all related documents for tax time as well. At least take good photos of everything using your cell phone for your records.
Use a Well-Known Organization to Donate If You Have Any Doubts
There are several larger well-known organizations whose focus is giving vehicles to people who have a variety of needs, including those with disabilities. Special Kids Fund. ORG is still our favorite. You can find them at:
Special Kids Fund, Inc 111 Autumn Rd. Lakewood, NJ 08701
Wheelchair Vans – Handicapped Accessible Vehicles
Donations and/or 732-397-5056
Requests – Must be submitted by email form. No calls, please.
Telephone: Charity Office: 732-397-5056 (click here to request wheelchair van)
Car Donations: 877-671-2911
Email: Please note – RE: Individual Requests: Although we aware of the acute need; SKF is not able to fund individual situations.
You may obtain suggestions or advice from:
National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities www.nichcy.org
Our general email address is Info@SpecialKidsFund.org
Please provide us with your contact information, so that we will be able to reach you to respond.
Organizations seeking funding and information
Please provide a brief description of your request;
including a description of your organization’s programs, primary funding resources and a link to your website.
No attachments, please.
Car Donations: www.specialkidsfund.org/Donate-a-car
Groups like “Free Charity Cars” or “Ways to Work”, help applicants in need obtain reliable transportation as well. Register online to begin the process for yourself. Read more about an organization online at charitywatch.org or another group charitynavigator.org, for example, to find out more about individual groups before you work with them. Don’t forget the fees!
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