Who Generally Is Eligible to Receive a Donated Car?

Donated cars come with upkeep costs.
Donated cars come with upkeep costs. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

If you can't afford to purchase a car but can afford the insurance payments and other costs of owning a car, you may be eligible to receive a donated vehicle from local or national programs. Eligibility requirements vary by specific program but frequently include economic stipulations. You'll need to apply to each program that interests you, to be considered for a free car.

Financial Qualifications

Some programs give you a donated car if you meet their financial requirements, which can vary by the program, program location and your family size. The Wisconsin Interfaith Needs Response gives away cars based on a family's income at 200 percent of the poverty line. For example, an individual with an income of $21,780 or a family of five with an income of $52,340 could get vehicles -- because they earned 200 percent of the 2011 poverty level.

Story Qualifications

Cars 4 Christmas and Free Charity Cars give cars to those with compelling stories. In this case, you don't need to meet income or other requirements, but you do need to have a compelling reason to need a car. Past Cars 4 Christmas recipients include injured veterans, single parents with many children, or parents of special needs children. No matter what your situation, you can always apply for programs that have story qualifications -- and you may be chosen.

Additional Criteria

You may be required to have a job or job offer before a program gives you a car. Run by Goodwill Industries, Wheels to Work is one such program that gives cars to those with jobs who need a vehicle for work. Before applying to vehicle donation programs, make sure you meet their requirements.


If you have a car already, you generally won't be able to get a free donated car. If you have a history of past auto accidents that would make you difficult to insure, you may have trouble getting a donated car. Also, once you get the free car, you will need to purchase automobile insurance and pay for gas, vehicle upkeep and miscellaneous expenses.

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