Getting Rid Of A Junk Car, Truck, RV, ATV Or Boat
Selling, Parting Out, Donating & Towing Junkers
There are many situations in which a vehicle ceases to be an asset and becomes a liability:
- It was totalled in an accident & has been written off by your insurance.
- It will cost more to fix than it's worth.
- It has little or no trade-in value.
- It's a lemon that you don't want to pass off on someone else.
- You don't want to go through the hassle of selling it.
- You're unable to find a buyer to take it off your hands.
- It's been sitting so long that it doesn't run anymore.
- It's in pieces... a project a that you never got around to.
No matter what your situation, there are options.
First, make sure you have a realistic idea of what your vehicle is worth. Go to Edmund's True Market Value site. Enter your vehicle's year, make and model. On the second page, click on the price listed for your style vehicle to see a more accurate local price, including values for trade-in, private sale and dealer retail.
To get the maximum return on your car, sell it yourself (private sale). The internet has made this far easier than it used to be. Sites like Ebay Motors and Craigslist remove some of the hassle... but not all of it.
If you go this route, make sure that you accompany your car's new owner to the local DMV office to transfer the title. If you don't, and they fail to transfer the title themselves, you're open to all kinds of liabilities, including toll charges, citations, higher insurance due to accidents and use of the vehicle in the commission of a crime while it's still in your name.
If you don't want the hassle of finding a private buyer, see if there's a CarMax location near you and ask what they're willing to offer. (Print out your Edmund's True Market Value report and bring it with you.) Or try used car dealers. Shop around for the best deal and get offers in writing.
Consignment lots sell the car for you in exchange for a percentage of the asking price. Avoid consignment lots unless they'll agree to let you verify the final sale amount by showing you the actual bill of sale. Likewise, avoid pawn shops. They'll charge you for storage (which may or may not be secure), and car insurance will still be your responsibility.
Want a tax write-off? Donate your vehicle to charity. You'll receive a tax deduction of either $500 or the selling price of your vehicle, whichever is greater.
Be aware that you'll have to file an itemized return to take advantage of this deduction. Also, only donations to 501(C)(3) organizations are eligible. As with all things IRS, there are some caveats, so you may want to read their vehicle donor's guide before you decide.
Generally speaking, you'll get a bigger deduction if a charity uses the donated vehicle themselves rather than selling it. Only vehicles in good running condition and with a fair amount of life left in them can be directly used by a charity, and even then, there's no guarantee. All other vehicles are sold at auction, usually for a good deal less than the blue book value. (This is true of car auctions in general.)
Either way, we recommend first calling your favorite charity to see if they could use your car. Try to look beyond the well-known national charities. Find a cause that's meaningful to you, or that benefits your local community. If your car still runs, drop it off yourself rather than having it towed. This will increase the amount of money that your charity receives.
Another way to donate your vehicle is to work with a middleman. The middleman arranges for towing and selling the car at auction, then passes the net proceeds on to the charity. Middlemen make their money from service fees, and the fee amounts can vary dramatically. We've researched who works the hardest to help others so that you don't have to!
We looked at organizations that provide nationwide service, that benefit more than one charity and that are charities themselves. We removed middlemen with legal histories of concern, and those who make it difficult to get their details.
The 990s of the remaining organizations were reviewed. A 990 is a form used by the IRS and state charity regulators to make sure that revenue is used for charity, not profit.
Only two car donation charities made it to our final list. The first is Cars 4 Charities, which operates on a shoestring budget and gives the majority of their gross income (not net!) to worthy causes. They guarantee a minimum of 65% of the sales price to the charity of your choice. Their charity partners report receiving closer to 75%, which is almost unheard of.
If Cars 4 Charities won't work for you, Vehicles For Charity is a good place to turn. The organization is a division of the Metropolitan Association for Retarded Citizens. The net proceeds from your vehicle's sale are split between MARC and a charity of your choice. You can learn more about MARC here. Vehicles for Charity accepts donations of cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles, and recreational vehicles.
If your vehicle is in pieces or no longer runs, try selling the working parts on Ebay or Craigslist. Selling the parts separately tends to bring in more money. Also see if there's a used parts dealer in your area that specializes in your type of vehicle. They might be interested.
If your vehicle has been totalled, you may be able to sell it to a salvage yard or scrap metal recycler. Call around. Some companies charge for towing, some don't, and some might actually give you a little cash in addition to towing. Only do this with true junkers. Vehicles that still run are worth more than a salvage yard will pay.
And finally, if absolutely no-one wants your vehicle, you can still avoid towing charges. Junk My Car is a free vehicle removal service covering the United States and Canada.