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You’ve decided to donate your car to charity and have chosen a non-profit you find deserving. You’ve cleaned your possessions out and are ready to say goodbye to your vehicle. Or are you? What are the DMV requirements for car donation? What must you do before handing over your keys? 

Donating Your Car to Charity

As you likely know, your donated vehicle is tax-deductible. In order for you to take that deduction, however, it’s a good idea to do a little bit of legwork before you let go of your car. 

First, learn the fair market value. If your vehicle is going to be used by the charity or donated to a family, the full market value is usually deductible. If the charity will be auctioning, scrapping, or selling your car, you can typically deduct up to $500, or the full amount the charity sells it for. 

Next, be sure you have the vehicle title in your possession. Transferring your car to a charity will go more smoothly if you already have the title in hand. 

Finally, be sure your car is clear of your personal belongings. Once you’ve donated your vehicle, there’s no getting them back!

DMV Requirements for Car Donation

The specific DMV requirements for car donation may vary slightly by state. However, in most cases, the steps to car donation will remain largely the same. 

Whoever holds your vehicle’s title in their name is the owner of your car. That’s why it’s important to have your title in hand when you’re ready to donate your vehicle. Bring your title with you when you donate the car or hand the title to whoever is designated by the charity to accept it. Do not simply hand the title to the person who comes to collect your vehicle unless the non-profit has specified it is safe to do so. 

Transferring your title may be as simple as signing it over to the non-profit. In fact, many charities deal with car donations so frequently that they have streamlined processes in place at their locations. 

To save time, check with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) before you donate your vehicle to ascertain whether your title must be notarized. This is true in a number of states. 

You will also need to determine whether your state requires a separate form to initiate the transfer of the title. Many states do not, and transferring your car’s ownership is as simple as signing it over. 

Notify the DMV

After you’ve handed over the keys to your car, it’s a good idea to call the DMV in your state. It’s technically not your responsibility, but to avoid liability issues later, it’s a simple step to take. 

You can check your state’s DMV website to see if this can be completed online. Sometimes it’s as simple as “deleting” a vehicle from your ownership profile. Note that once the charity completes the title transfer process, you’ll no longer be in any way responsible for the car. 

If you’re unsure of the process of notifying the DMV is, it’s best to just step into an office. You can notify the agents in person, saving any confusion down the road. 

Cancel Your Registration and Insurance

After you donate your car, your local DMV might require that you either turn in or transfer your tags and cancel your registration of that vehicle. In some cases, you may be eligible for a refund of prorated registration fees. Be sure to ask your DMV representative if this is possible. 

If it’s required by your state, turn in your license plates. In some states, you’re permitted to keep them. Feel free to hang on to your license plates as a souvenir but remember they’re not legal for use on another vehicle unless you complete a new registration with the DMV. 

Finally, don’t forget to cancel your car insurance or transfer coverage to another car. This can usually be done online, and you may be eligible for a partial refund. In some cases, you may have to call your insurer or sign forms to complete the cancellation. 

Summary: Vehicle Title, License Plates And Other Requirements for Car Donations

Donating your vehicle is a straightforward and rewarding experience. It’s usually quite simple to transfer ownership of your car to a charity. DMV requirements for car donation may vary slightly by state, but sometimes all you need to do is sign over the title. Check with your local DMV for any requirements specific to your state.