A complete review of how to donate your car to NPR, the paperwork needed and what to expect during each step of the vehicle donation process.
Disclaimer: The review posted below is my own experience and was in no way influenced by the lovely folks at National Public Radio (NPR)
Donating your car to any charitable organization can be a stressful experience. I found myself in this same position when my Toyota Rav4 decided to quit working after 16 good years in service. To be honest, I knew this was coming. This vehicle had gone through some extensive repairs over the years and was starting to show signs of its age. The paint had peeled away, the engine made too much noise and the air conditioning worked when it wanted to.
Donating your car to NPR is almost like selling it and it involves some paperwork to make it a legal transaction.
You transfer your title over to the vehicle donation agency who manage the selling process for you. Depending on which state you live in, your local Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) may have some additional requirements.
If your vehicle was originally purchased using an auto loan, try to get a Lien Release Statement from your borrowing institution. This is especially helpful if the lien holder listed on the vehicle title hasn’t signed off on it releasing their lien.
The title of the vehicle to be donated must be clear, in your name and have no major damage. If the title has two names, then both parties must sign on the title transfer section. Most states require that all owners listed on the title must print and sign their name when transferring ownership.
Some states may have additional requirements if the owner is deceased.
Lastly, if you anticipate your vehicle to sell for more than $500, it helps to get an individual appraisal of the vehicle before donating to NPR or any other charitable organization.
Where to Sign Up
Starting the process to donate your car is actually quite easy. Vehicle donations to NPR are managed by the popular NPR show Car Talk’s Vehicle Donation Program. Fill out an online form or just call their hotline number posted on the website to get the process started.
Filling out the form is not that hard to do. I was quite happy that I didn’t have to dig through documents to find answers for the form questions. All it took was entering some readily available information like the car’s make, model, year, current mileage and the car’s condition.
What to Expect After Signing Up
After submitting the online form, the Car Talk Vehicle Donation Program will send a few automated email notifications with a confirmation number and a link to their Donor Console.
The link to the donor console is actually tied to your unique confirmation number. Just enter your phone number in the console link to track your donation status through the entire process.
About 24 to 48 hours after submitting the form, expect a call back from the agency that helps coordinate this process for the Car Talk Vehicle Donation Program. In my case, it was Advanced Remarketing Services (ARS).
An actual human calls back to confirm the details entered in the submission form. The call center tech enquires about the status of the car to determine if they need to schedule a flat bed or a standard towing vehicle.
An additional email will also be sent for you to upload pictures of your vehicle to their cloud-based web application. The web application is quite straightforward to use and guides you on the pictures required for the application packet. A smart phone camera is quite sufficient because these pictures are essentially shots of all four sides of the vehicle, driver cabin and the engine compartment.
After submitting the photos, the coordination agency usually passes on your vehicle information to a vehicle auction company. This vehicle auction company will then call you to schedule an appointment for the vehicle to be towed.
Steps to Get Prepared
I do recommend performing a through sweep of your vehicle before it is picked up. Remove any personal belongings that could later compromise your identity security like postal mail, receipts showing address, etc.
Check under the seats, between crevices and also in the trunk for personal identifiable information. Any custom accessories that you may have added might get you extra cash if you sell it separately on sites like E-Bay or Facebook Marketplace.
Check your local DMV’s requirements regarding the license plate – whether it stays with the vehicle or needs to be removed before being sold.
In most states, the only paperwork needed by the auction company is the title.
How to Transfer the Title
Transferring a title over is quite easy if you took care of the items mentioned in my first section regarding paperwork needed.
All one needs to do is complete the section on the back of the title labeled “assignment of title by owner” or “transfer of ownership by seller”.
The key information that is needed is the signature of the seller, name printed as shown on the title and odometer mileage. Requirements by state are available in the vehicle donation program’s FAQ section.
Leave the signed title in the vehicle and hand the vehicle over to the tower on your scheduled appointment.
The auction company posts your vehicle on their web site and set an auction date for the vehicle. On the day of the auction, individual bidders bid on your vehicle.
It is good practice to keep your vehicle insurance active until the vehicle is sold in case some damage occurs while the vehicle is being towed.
The vehicle donation program will contact you after the vehicle is sold stating the amount it sold for.
If the vehicle sold at auction for more than $500, then you will need to contact them with your SSN to have an 8283 form mailed to you. IRS requires a form 8283 to be filed with your tax returns when the non-cash donation exceeds $500.
Frequently Asked Questions
Most donated cars at sold at auction and bought by private sellers. Per NPR, vehicles in poor condition is sold for scrap metal and any usable parts salvaged.
Yes, NPR accepts cars in any running condition per their website.
Yes, NPR claims they accept vehicles, RVs, trucks, boats, motorcycles, planes and even heavy farm equipment.
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