Car Donation 101: 8 Terms You Need to Know
car donation


Are you considering a car donation? Before you donate your car to a charitable organization, familiarize yourself with the basic terms to ensure everyone involved gets the best possible benefit from your donation.

501(c)(3) Organization

There’s a big difference between calling an organization a charity and making it an official IRS 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Second Chances Garage is registered with the IRS and operates as a certified 501(c)(3), which means it has the ideal status for tax-exempt charitable donations. Other organizations don’t necessarily have the same status and might not be eligible for tax breaks. To learn more about the tax advantages of car donation, see “Tax Benefits/Deduction” below.

Early-Model/Late-Model Vehicles

An early-model vehicle is an older vehicle, usually more than a decade or two old. A late-model vehicle is much more recent and was probably manufactured within the past 2 or 3 years or at maximum, no more than 5 years ago. Age matters because some car donation charities don’t accept vehicles more than a certain number of years old and may claim they take “late-model vehicles only.” Second Chances Garage accepts vehicles regardless of age.

High-Mileage Vehicles

It’s common to put about 10,000 to 13,000 miles per year on a vehicle with normal daily driving. This means a 5-year-old vehicle with 50,000 miles would be considered a vehicle with normal mileage. By contrast, a high-mileage vehicle already has more than 100,000 miles at a fairly young age. While some charities won’t accept high-mileage vehicles, Second Chances Garage doesn’t discriminate based on mileage and can accept your vehicle no matter what the odometer says.

Junk/Scrap Vehicles

A junk or scrap vehicle is traditionally considered to hold very little value other than sending it to the junkyard or disassembling for parts. Second Chances Garage takes a fresh view of these vehicles and encourages you to contact us about car donation instead of sending it to the junkyard. Your car might be a great candidate for repairs that would put it back on the road for a family in need. It could also be resold or recycled with the proceeds benefiting Second Chances Garage.

Local Recipient

Many car donation charities redistribute vehicles to people across the United States, meaning your car could end up anywhere after your donation. If you prefer to ensure your donation goes to someone nearby in your Maryland community, know that with Second Chances Garage your donation will benefit a local recipient.

Tax Benefits/Deductions

You can gain tax benefits from donating your vehicle to Second Chances Garage. After your donation, your car will either become a program vehicle, be resold to the general public, or be recycled for parts. Program vehicles bring you a tax deduction equal to the Kelley Blue Book private party sale value and a local person receives the vehicle. Resold vehicles give you a tax deduction for the sale price, with proceeds benefiting Second Chances Garage. Recycled/parted vehicles bring a tax deduction for the recycle value and even if it’s less than $500, the IRS allows up to $500.

Vehicle Title and Registration

Your vehicle title is a document that gives you ownership of the vehicle. It’s different from your registration, which is arranged with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA). Second Chances Garage must acquire the title of the vehicle along with your donated car, so we can’t accept vehicles with titles held by banks and other entities.


The vehicle identification number (VIN) is unique to every vehicle and serves as its individual identification for official transactions. If a vehicle has an incorrect, altered, or obscured VIN, it may be in violation of Maryland law, which could interfere with a charitable car donation. The MVA can assist with correcting VINs to comply with the law.

How to Learn More About Car Donation

Your car donation could make a life-changing difference for one of your Frederick County neighbors. To learn more about the basics of donating to Second Chances Garage, take a look at our easy 3-step car donation process.

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