What Is a Donor Car?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A donor car may be one that is provided for charitable purposes, or a car used as a base for parts in repair and restoration projects. The intended meaning of the term is usually clear from the context. Charities can use cars in a variety of ways, including selling them to raise funds, or offering them to needy recipients. In mechanical work, having a second car to use for parts and components can be useful.

Some charities hold raffles for donor cars.
Some charities hold raffles for donor cars.

In the charity context, the donor car can come from a car dealer or manufacturer, in which case it may be new or minimally used. Some charities hold raffles or auctions for donor cars, in which members of the public enter for a chance to win the car. The new car can be used as a promotional tool to increase interest for the charity, and is also valuable for public relations for the donor. Charities looking for sources might want to consider asking dealerships about older stock when cars for the new year start arriving.

The term "donor cars" can refer to vehicles that are given as charity.
The term "donor cars" can refer to vehicles that are given as charity.

Used cars can also be accepted as donations. Some charities need cars to provide services to clients, and may appreciate gifts from members of the public who want to support them. Others provide cars to people who need them, either as rental or temporary loaner vehicles, or as gifts. Donor cars may be sold, typically at auction or in large lots, to raise funds for charity. People with concerns about how a donation will be used can ask for more information from the charity.

Tax benefits may be available for people and businesses that contribute a donor car. This depends on whether the charity is registered and keeps accurate records on its activities. It can help to discuss a proposed donation with an accountant to learn more about the options and confirm that a charity qualifies. If it does not, the accountant may have recommendations for an organization with similar goals that will meet regulatory standards for donations.

For mechanics, a donor car can be used in a variety of ways. For some rebuilding projects, a new body might be needed as a base for modifications. Other projects require a second car to use as a source for parts. The donor car might, for example, have seats in excellent condition that could be transferred to a car for a restoration. Such projects can include builds of new cars as well as efforts to restore classic and historic vehicles, in which case a careful attention to detail may be required to keep the vehicle accurate, especially if the mechanic wants to enter competitions and events.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@Animandel - The charity where you donate your car will give you a receipt that indicates the value of the car you gave them, and you can use this when you file your taxes. Usually, the charity person will look up the estimated value of your car based on the year, model and mileage. The deduction is at least as much as you would get if you sold the car and maybe even more.

Unless, you need cash at the time you are getting rid of the car, donating it is a good deal for you and the charity in the long run.


There are public service messages on the local public television station I watch. One of the messages suggests that viewers donate old cars and get a tax break. This article says that tax deductions are sometimes given for donor cars, but are the deductions worthwhile?

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