Do you need a car to meet your family’s basic needs and are unable to provide for one yourself? Not owning reliable transportation can be a serious issue for struggling American families. And while some urban areas have great public transportation systems, in most of the United States it is not really a feasible option for raising a family. If you are already having a tough time, being unable to reliably get to work, take the kids to school and accomplish basic errands can only make your family’s situation worse. There is some help available but in this case it does not come from the federal government.
There is currently no federal government program that issues grants to purchase cars. Very briefly for a few months in 2009, congress providing funding for the Car Allowance Rebate System also called Cash For Clunkers in the press. But this was a temporary stimulus initiative that offered incentives to trade in less fuel efficient cars for more fuel efficient cars. This program is no longer operating but it never actually provided cars to families in need. But when government assistance isn’t available and a very real problem exists, usually the private sector steps in. This is the case with charitable groups that provide cars to low-income families.
If you need help obtaining a car there are several nationwide charities that accept donated cars, repair them and offer them to families at no cost. There are also local groups in some areas that provide the same type of assistance, giving even better access to this type of program to residents in some states. None of these programs will offer you a new car, but if you are selected to receive help from one of them you can expect to get a 10-12 year old vehicle with around 100,000 miles. Donated cars are looked over by a mechanic, repaired to be road-ready and are then distributed to provide suitable transportation for families through these programs.
Free Charity Cars
This is the original car donation charity program in the United States, also known as 1-800-Charity Cars. This non-profit was created with the main goal of helping struggling families transition from dependency to self-sufficiency. Since 1996, it has awarded over 4,500 cars though the nationwide program. Free Charity Cars helps the following types of applicants with grants for used cars:
- Families moving from public assistance to work
- Families living in homeless shelters
- Military families
- Victims of domestic abuse
- Victims of natural disasters
- Disabled or medically challenged
- Working poor
- Non-profit organizations
To apply for help, you must create a profile on the Free Charity Cars website. You are then expected to promote for the donation program as much as possible in your area and through your online social networking. Profiles that receive the most votes will be ranked by the amount of overall support and will receive a car donation when one becomes available in that applicant’s area.
With Causes Charitable Network
With Causes is a nationwide giving network, allowing for the donation of cars, computers or almost anything of value to support the areas where the organization focuses its efforts. While not its only program, With Causes does provide used car donations to applicants when they are available. To apply for any of the help available through the charity, fill out a help request on the With Causes website and provide your specific needs in your request.
Working Cars for Working Families
While not a car donation charity, Working Cars for Working Families is a service of the National Consumer Law Center which seeks to improve consumer protection and end abuse in the used car business. It maintains a list of car donation services for those looking to donate or receive a car through local programs. To find out if there is a local program in your area, use the program search available on the NCLC website.
Local Car Programs
There is a bit more help available locally in some areas for those looking for help acquiring a donated car. These programs do not always provide free cars, sometimes merely making it possible to buy a car under market or at a highly reduced price. These are only a few examples of local car programs. If you do not live in one of these areas and are unable to find a program near you using the Working Cars for Working Families search, we suggest you continue your search by contacting non-profit organizations in your area that work with low-income families.
Caring Cars – Huntsville, Alabama
Offered by the Family Services Center, this program provides cars needed for transportation to and from work by low-income families in the Huntsville and Madison County area. Cars are donated locally and provided to local families through the program. Cars are not offered for free, with a small down payment and monthly payment schedule required by applicants to cover program costs.
Good News Garage – Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont
This program is offered by Lutheran Social Services in the New England area. Since 1996, it has helped to distribute 4,000 refurbished cars to needy families. Eligibility does vary from state to state but in all cases cars are offered to participants through various state programs.
Vehicles for Change – Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC
This is a Washington, DC area car donation program offering cars for reduced prices to those having trouble with transportation to work. You must be employed at least 30 hours a week, have a drivers licence and be able to provide insurance and normal car ownership expenses to apply. If selected for the top tier of the program, you will be provided a car for a one time cost of $750. For applicants with more modest income, cars can be provided for under market prices.