Californians: Please, PLEASE help with car donation

So my Sentra is history. It still runs, but needs some serious maintenance. We already bought its replacement, so it’s solely acting as a major inconvenience (paying insurance, moving street parking every 3-4 days, etc.)

I donated my Pulsar 5 years ago and it was a completely painless procedure. They came over, we exchanged papers, signed a few things, got my tax receipt, and off they went. Easy. No problems.

But trying to replicate this experience has been a nightmare. I’ve talked to 4 different tow companies. None want to meet in person–their “preferred” procedure is to leave my car unlocked :confused:, leaving the title and keys under the driver’s seat :eek:, and they’ll pick it up and mail me the receipt.

Yeah right. My car’s already had its stereo stolen–when I find it missing the next morning, how am I supposed to know it didn’t get stolen instead of “picked up”?. Of course, there was one company who said, if I didn’t feel comfortable unlocking it, they’d just come by and Slim Jim it open.

You have got to be kidding me. All of this sounds way too fishy, but I can’t seem to find an agency that isn’t related to another one of these agencies, or a tow company that will meet with me in person (unless they leave cable-guy windows, like “4 am - Noon”)

Unfortunately, I don’t remember who I donated it to last time (got the # off a billboard). Friends and neighbors only have horror stories similar (or worse :() to mine. Can anyone, especially CA residents, provide a recommendation on a car donation company that they actually had a completely problem-free transaction with?

Oh, I’ve tried the BBB, but only found their “Dos/Don’ts” list–nothing on which agencies are reliable/reputable.


I used to work for the Make A Wish Foundation at their corporate head quarters in Phoenix. Sometimes Chapters would get cars donated to them, it may be a good way to go. And it looks great on your taxes.

So why not think about donating it to a charity. Oh and why are you still paying insurance on it? Why didn’t you trade it in? Why not just drop the insurance, give the title and license plate back to the MVD and have it junked? do you want money?

The Special Kids Fund

Make-A-Wish Foundation

Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Santa Clara County

There are many donation programs out there - these were 3 I found on Google.

And, for goodness sake, DON’T just leave the title and keys in the unlocked car! Whoever told you that should be buried in the ground up to their nose and used as a golf tee.

Wow Rico we were think’in along the same lines!

We used ‘Cars for Causes’ without much hassle. They picked it up in person, gave a receipt, and then mailed in their estimated value of the car.


Just to be a teensy bit contrary, four years ago I went through exactly the procedure you’re describing - left the car unlocked, keys & title under the seat, in a public parking lot in Newark, New Jersey, a.k.a. Car Theft Capital of the United States.

The American Lung Association’s regional office had no trouble getting the car (a 1987 Buick Century 4-cylinder crapheap) and I got my certificate.

Think about it: if you’re to the point of donating it, is anybody going to want to steal it? :wink:

I’m not in the same area as you, but I recently donated two cars to Chabad of Brentwood (upscale part of West L.A.). One was barely running, and the other didn’t run at all, and together it would have cost thousands to bring them up to the emissions code. But they took them and seemed very grateful. And they were able to nail down the pickup time to a one-hour window. So I was very pleased with the service and I got my garage spaces back:)

So you might see if there’s a Chabad branch in the East Bay. They seem to be everywhere, so it’s likely you do.

I donated my old car to the San Francisco SPCA. I left the keys in it and the title, they showed up and towed it away and sent me my tax form no problem. It didn’t actually run, so I didn’t mind leaving it unlocked like that.

I recommend the Battered Womens Alliance.

We gave our car to the Kidney Foundation and they sent a truck by to pick it up. There is also the Polly Klass Foundation which was our first choice but they did not get down our way.
Kidney Foundation
Polly Klass

St. Vincents takes them too, i work for them. They usually sell those cars in San Jose but they take them from most areas of the state.

I should probably clarify–each time I ended with a tow-truck company, I began with a genuine bona fide charity that referred me to them. That’s why I got as far as I did with them before backing out because of these (IMHO) dubious practices. It’s clear that most charities (or at least the ones I dealt with) simply farmed out the responsibility of handling the mechanics of the pick-up/transfer to an intermediary–one with no direct connection to the charity itself.

So I wasn’t looking for “You can give it to Charity X”; I’ve got tons of references there. I was looking for personal, firsthand experience that you’d feel comfortable recommending.

Several of which are cited above, so my Thanks. Keep the suggestions coming and I’ll give some of them a go…

I work for a not-for-profit organization that has taken 150 donated vehicles the last 2 years. Unfortunately we are located in Missouri, and we don’t take cars valued less than $2000. The donors get tax credits in addition to their charitable donation. But I digress.

I don’t know if this is feasible for you, but. You might try to find a charity relatively convenient to you. Call and explain the problem. Tell them you would like to drop the vehicle at the charity’s corporate office, sign the title over to the charity, get the proper acknowledgement for your donation and be on your way.

I know the logistics might be difficult for you, dropping off your old car, and then getting a ride back to your new car or work or wherever. But the charity should have fewer problems with the cable guy windows.