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November 23, 2022

7 Steps to Prepare Your Car for Donation

If you’re looking for a way to let go of your old car, consider donating your junk car! You can donate junk cars to charities that will teach students by fixing them, repairing them and giving them to families in need, or resell them for parts to contribute financially to important causes. When you donate your junk car to charity, everyone can benefit from it!

That’s why vehicle donation represents one of the best ways to dispose of a car that no longer works for your lifestyle or needs without creating unnecessary waste. While the requirements for each form of donation differ, you can take these seven steps to prepare your car (and yourself) for the donation.

1. Check Your Charity’s Requirements

A charity that refurbishes and resells car parts will have different requirements than an automotive school. Check with your charity for the required paperwork, repairs, and preparations checklist. You’ll find many common requirements on this list. However, it’s always a good idea to go over your charity’s policies so you know how the car will be transported, how it will be used, and what paperwork to expect.

What documentation is needed to donate a car? The title or other ownership paperwork is the most important document you need when donating your car. Some paperwork, like title transfer forms and vehicle receipts, will be provided to you by the DMV or charity you’re donating to. This paperwork could be returned to the charity for their records, given to the DMV, or kept for your personal records. Check with your charity of choice to find out what documentation is needed to donate a car to them specifically. 

2. Find the Title and Prepare the Paperwork 

Regardless of the charity type, you will likely need to produce the title before donating the car. Put together a folder of important paperwork, including the title, title transfer form, and any accident history for the vehicle. If you still make payments on your car, you must complete a lien release form to transfer the loan to your charity. Check with your organization to see if they accept cars with liens on them. Fill out your paperwork carefully, as the DMV does not accept title forms with errors.

Only some people know how to fill out a title when donating a car, and that’s okay. The basic steps are the same whether you’re selling, donating, or just transferring the title - using a blue or black ink pen, sign the “seller” section on the back of the title, then have the charity sign the “buyer” section. A notary will usually be present to make the transfer official and binding. If you’re still unsure what to do, the charity you plan to donate your car can help you fill it out, or you can ask for resources online or in person at the DMV to learn how to fill out your title when donating a car.

It is possible to donate a car without a title, though - some organizations like Kars4Kids and Goodwill can take car donations that don’t include a title if you can prove the car is yours or doesn’t have any liens with other paperwork. Check with your chosen charity to find out if you can donate cars without titles, and fill out the alternate paperwork required instead of the title and title transfer form. 

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3. Have a Basic Checkup

If you donate directly to a church or a person in need, consider having a basic inspection performed. Check the condition of basic components, such as the windows, wipers, lights, brakes, and tires. Double-check the condition requirements of your charity, and make any repairs accordingly. While many scrap charities take inoperable vehicles, charities that provide second-hand vehicles to those in need may ask you to perform simple maintenance tasks beforehand if you can. 

4. Perform Any Needed Cleaning

Now that you know what requirements charities may have before you can donate your car, there's a new question: what do I need to do before car donation pickup? The next few steps on this list will tell you the most important things you need to do before car donation pickup time begins. The best way to remember them is to consider what you would do if you were selling your car instead of donating it: you would clean it, take your personal belongings out of it, and get all the keys together, right?

Begin by evaluating your car's cleanliness and the purpose it will serve after donating. If you’re donating to a local cause, consider performing some standard cleaning before turning your car over. Remember, you do not need to deep-clean the vehicle unless required by the charity. Many organizations, such as automotive schools, perform and teach these cleaning methods after you donate the car. 

5. Put Any and All Keys Together

For many car donation charities, all you need to donate is the car, the title, and the keys. Put all the keys you have, including a remote key fob if you have one, together on a single key ring. To help you keep track of the keys, keep them in the same place as your paperwork. 

6. Remove All Personal Belongings

The last thing your charity wants is to end up with a pair of your sunglasses and a pack of gum along with your car. During your cleaning, give your car a once-over to ensure that you have removed all personal items. Check under the seats, floor mats, and dashboard for any hidden personal items. 

7. Wait Until After the Donation to Cancel the Insurance

Your last step when donating a car is canceling the insurance. While the title still belongs to you, you should maintain your usual insurance to avoid legal complications. Wait to remove your license tags or cancel your insurance until you drop your car off or have your car picked up and the transfer is complete. Return your tags to your local DMV along with the relevant paperwork. Questions about our donation program? Contact a staff member here at the Newgate School to get answers to your specific questions. Perform these tasks so that when you donate your vehicle, you can do so without wondering if you left something behind or neglected to finish a piece of paperwork.