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How To Get A Free Car: Easy Ways For 2021

Last updated: October 8, 2021
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vector graphic showing a car in a city to illustrate how to get a free car

Having a working vehicle in today’s world is almost a prerequisite to being able to survive.

What, though, do you do if you do not have a vehicle?

The following is some advice regarding how to get a free car in a short amount of time, who qualifies, and how to go about getting that free car.

How Can I Get a Car for Free?

If you need a vehicle, the good news is some several people and organizations can help you, provided you meet certain criteria.

These include charities, religious organizations, generous benefactors, and the government.

Many people donate vehicles because they get a tax deduction.

The catch is the criteria that will let you qualify to get a free car.

Even one that has a lot of wear and tear, a vehicle is too much of an investment monetarily for many people to just give it away to anyone who asks.

There is usually no such thing as free money.

Plus, most people who are inclined to give a vehicle away are charity, or at least tax-deduction-minded.

That usually means that they want a certain type of person or a person in a certain situation to get the vehicle.

For most non-profit organizations, the criteria to get a free car is almost always driven by need.

That means that even if you qualify, you need to research the organization or person gifting a car and figure out what requirements are attached to the vehicle.

Getting a free car is also not the type of charity that most non-profits or recipients expect.

A vehicle is worth a lot of money so giving it away is no small matter.

You will need to put in a fair amount of effort to get your free vehicle.

Who Might Qualify for a Free Car?

The suggestions here are a partial list.

However, they are the most obvious people who might qualify for a free car, depending on who or what is giving it away.

If your situation does not fall into any of these categories, you should still follow up with research of your own, as you never know what exceptions can be made.

There are many scenarios where someone might lose access to a vehicle.

Here are a few situations that can very easily result in the need for a car.

  • Too costly vehicle repairs
  • Loss of a job
  • Unable to keep up with payments
  • A relationship breakup
  • Health emergencies
  • Short term need for temporary assistance to recover from a crisis
  • The existing vehicle situation is no longer available

These are just a few examples of how someone might come into the need for a car.

Who might fall into any of these categories?

The list of people is long. Here are a few examples.

Single Mothers

Single moms face all sorts of challenges, not the least of which is raising children while making ends meet.

This not only consumes their day but often causes a lot of stress just as part of daily life.

While for most single mothers, money is always tight, life circumstances can turn a tricky financial situation into a full-on crisis, and sometimes that can happen without warning or overnight.

If a child suddenly has a health crisis, for example, a mother can find herself having to choose between having a vehicle and buying food and medicine for her children.

Disabled People

Many disabled people have ride arrangements, but some do not, and sometimes those arrangements fall through.

This is particularly true in rural areas where access to a ride when the person needs it can be impossible to arrange.

The specialized nature of many disabilities makes getting a vehicle in some cases difficult as well.

Low-Income Families

This falls along the lines of the single mother that needs a vehicle.

Many families are struggling to make ends meet, and a vehicle is a luxury they cannot afford.

Ironically, not having a vehicle often means they miss out on jobs that could help them pull themselves out of the financial situation they are in.

Life events play heavily in this scenario as well.

One child or spouse that becomes ill can make car payments impossible.

The loss of a job can mean the loss of a ride for the same reason.

The possible reasons a low-income family may not have a vehicle are endless.

Senior Citizens

Many seniors live on fixed incomes and a vehicle is just not a realistic possibility.

Additionally, many seniors have an acute need to get to doctor’s appointments, etc., so not having a vehicle can be a life-altering or threatening experience.

Natural Disaster Victims

When you see a town that has been leveled by a tornado, heavily damaged by a hurricane, or flood, the vehicle needs of the victims may not come immediately to mind.

If, though, someone lost all their earthly possessions as well as their home, losing their vehicle is not just a real possibility but an inevitability.

Additionally, while many charity, government, and community resources may cover things like food and shelter, vehicles are not usually covered in the immediate aftermath.

This reality can mean that victims of natural disasters are stranded in community centers, not able to go home or anywhere else.

Victims of Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse can often mean a rapid departure from a horrible situation.

There might not be time to get a vehicle or taking one may enrage the abuser.

In other situations, domestic abuse victims are put in “safe houses” where they still need a vehicle but have no access to family or friends until the abuse situation is mitigated.

Students

Some students come from environments where having their own vehicle is not feasible, whether high school or college.

They also need a vehicle to get to classes, a job, etc.

In some cases, a vehicle is the only way a student could go to school and hold down a job.

Veterans

This is another group that might not seem obvious as needing a vehicle.

Many veterans come home to financial hardship, however.

In some cases, a vehicle is critical to helping them acclimate after a deployment.

In other cases, their treatment for physical, emotional, and mental damage requires they be able to drive to health facilities.

In each of these cases, a need for a vehicle might not be obvious.

That is why many social services agencies can help each case deal with its own unique needs.

Does the Government Have a Free Car Program?

The short answer is “yes.”

The longer answer is that you must meet a list of criteria, but if you do, you can get help from the government and even qualify for a free car.

Most federal government vehicle purchase assistance will be through government grants and can be administrated through local charities.

It is also smart to check the state the applicant is from to see if it offers any vehicle assistance or free vehicle programs for those surviving at or near the poverty line.

The following is a program run by the federal government.

vector graphic showing a car in a city to illustrate how to get a free car

Government Car Voucher Program

This program does not provide a free car outright, but it does help with the cost of a vehicle in the form of vouchers.

Eligible individuals apply for assistance and, if approved are given vouchers towards a vehicle purchase or fixing a vehicle that needs repairs.

Assistance ranges from $1,000 – 2,000 and is distributed in the form of vouchers.

Another source that helps find government vehicle assistance programs is the federal grant database.

Eligibility for Applicants

Eligibility for the voucher program or any government vehicle assistance program is generally the same across all programs.

A combination of income, employment, family situation, and personal classification is required in just about every free vehicle or voucher program.

Those criteria are:

  • Applicant must be a US resident
  • Applicant must be unemployed
  • Applicant must have a valid driver’s license
  • The total income of the applicant cannot exceed 125% of the federal poverty level

In addition, as mentioned above, the applicant must be one of the following classifications:

  • Victim of a natural disaster
  • Medically needy
  • Elderly
  • Military families experiencing hardship
  • Individuals transitioning from public assistance to work
  • Students traveling long distances
  • Lower-income per federal guidelines
  • Individuals or families in transitional shelters
  • Victim of domestic abuse

Part of meeting eligibility is providing proof of what you are claiming.

To qualify for the voucher program or any free vehicle program with the federal government or state government, the applicant must provide:

  • Proof of US citizenship (passport, driver’s license, state ID, birth certificate, green card, employment authorization card)
  • Proof of age (this is only for programs that have age requirements)
  • Proof of income (if self-employed, this can be done by profit loss statements or tax returns)
  • Proof of income per the Area Medan Income (AMI)
  • Proof of Unemployment (termination letter, unemployment payment stubs)

Another facet of eligibility is meeting with a caseworker.

They will work with you to get the proofs you need and will ask you questions to verify what you have put on paper.

The key to the paperwork and interview is, to be honest.

If any numbers do not add up, you can be disqualified from the car assistance program, ruled ineligible for vouchers, and any other benefits you receive can be in jeopardy.

How to Get a Free Car from the Government

Applicants can go through a government portal at the federal or state level.

The process is that the applicant will fill out a form detailing their financial history and current circumstances, including employment.

A caseworker then calls to confirm the details and to alert the applicant of any needed paperwork.

All required paperwork has a deadline.

That deadline is usually non-negotiable.

In some cases, there is leeway if the applicant is relying on a third party to get the needed data.

The applicant can also request more time for health reasons or extenuating circumstances.

Once all the verification paperwork has been submitted, the application is reviewed for eligibility and determination.

Either way, the applicant is informed as to the status of their application.

If the application is accepted, the applicant will receive instructions regarding what to do next.

If the application gets rejected, the applicant can appeal if they feel the determination is in error.

Apply for Government Car Assistance

There are multiple ways to apply for government vehicle assistance.

One way is via subsidized loans.

Ways for Work is the leader for these types of loans.

The loan amount varies but can be several thousand dollars.

Another vehicle to apply for federal auto funding is Working Cars for Working People.

This charity helps people find affordable auto donations, grants to help pay for cars, or government assistance to help purchase a vehicle.

Another source for grand funding is Opportunity Cars, which works with social service agencies and local charities.

Finally, if a free vehicle is out of the question, but you have a vehicle that could serve you but needs work, several grants provide funds for just that.

The best way to apply for these types of funds is to contact your state Health and Human Services Department and work through their assistance portal.

If that does not yield enough help, search for local charities that provide repair assistance.

Suggested Resource:

Loans for Uber DriversGet funding when you need it.

Free Charity Cars: Cars for Charity

Every state has multiple charities that can help you find funding for a vehicle or get a free vehicle.

The key is to work with the charity that gets you closest to your goals without ruling out help from the others.

Here is a rundown of some popular charities and their pros and cons.

It is important to remember that any donated vehicle might affect eligibility for other government assistance programs, like TANF.

OnlineCarDonation.org

screenshot of OnlineCarDonation.org homepage

Online Car Donation specializes in providing vehicles to those in need or of modest needs.

They have an online application form and process that requires you to provide the usual slate of verification.

The organization reviews every application and decides on eligibility for a free vehicle on a case-by-case basis.

Their core customer base is battered women, individuals with physical disabilities, families living in homeless shelters, families transitioning from public assistance, and military families displaying hardship.

Pros:

  • Each case is determined individually
  • Criteria for eligibility is broad
  • Applicants not contacted in 30 days can reapply

Cons:

  • This organization is popular and is very selective
  • Phone contact with charity representatives is discouraged

Cars4Heroes

screenshot of cars4heroes.org homepage

Cars4Heroes is another great option.

This charity focuses on veterans, active-duty military, first responders, and their families.

The organization tries to help those listed above that cannot obtain transportation for themselves for financial, health, and safety reasons.

Cars 4 Heroes gifts any vehicles that get donated once the vehicle passes a road test and is verified to have no repair needs.

They also partner with different groups, including charities that help inmates transition back into society.

Pros:

  • They are very well respected
  • They are small and personal

Cons:

  • Their criteria is only the groups mentioned above

Cars4Christmas

screenshot of cars4christmas homepage

Cars4Christmas is a group is affiliated with Cars 4 Heroes.

Their founders are Terry Franz and Mike van Noy, two former car dealership owners.

The charity works with groups throughout communities to help identify needs, obtain vehicles and promote the organization.

Cars 4 Christmas was the flagship charity that initially served the Kansas City, MO region.

It has grown throughout the years.

Pros:

  • The application process is easy
  • An application that is deemed eligible has 3 years for placement

Cons:

  • The organization has a limited number of vehicles and thousands of applicants each year

1-800-Charity Cars

screenshot of the 1-800-charity-cars homepage

The goal of 1-800-Charity Cars is to serve struggling families transitioning from public assistance.

A nationwide organization, applications are submitted via the charity website.

They are a well-respected charity, having earned several awards for integrity, best practices, and effectiveness.

1-800-Charity Cars is proud that 100% of all donations go to fulfilling the charity mission.

Additionally, they have awarded over $6M in vehicles for veterans and families in the last fiscal year.

Pros:

  • Very well respected
  • Featured on Oprah, Extreme Makeover, and GMA
  • Winner of the Disney Community Service Award
  • Maintains a very high rating with Charity Navigator

Cons:

  • None to speak of

Good News Garage

screenshot of the good news garage homepage

The Good News Garage has helped over 5,500 New England (Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire) families by providing them a free used car.

Charity representatives are local, which also means there is a community connection.

Good News Garage has a very active donor program.

Every vehicle they place is inspected by a professional.

If needed, repair work is done to ensure a safe ride for all recipients.

Pros:

  • Very local
  • Large vehicle pool

Cons:

  • Not currently providing services in NH
  • Restricted to the New England region

OnlineCarDonation.com

OnlineCarDonation.com is a charity provides vehicles to needy individuals and families and other social services and charity donations, including books, computers, and office space for up-and-coming charities.

Their process is straightforward. They promise a quick turnaround.

Additionally, they actively work with donors and have several donor programs that locate new vehicles.

Each application is personally reviewed, and if a person is determined to be eligible, they are matched with a vehicle.

Pros:

  • Very active charity with a large network
  • Very active donation programs

Cons:

  • There is no personal contact until an applicant is determined to be eligible
  • The application process is stringent

Vehicles for Change

screenshot of the vehicles for change homepage

Vehicles for Change is a charity provides vehicles and automotive training to those in need.

They are rapidly expanding nationally, having originated in the Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia areas.

Their purpose is to help people get reliable transportation and, when applicable, to train recipients in automotive skills and in becoming self-reliant.

Vehicles for Change has multiple partnerships, including with the States of Virginia and Maryland.

Pros:

  • They employ a multi-tiered approach to charity and self-improvement
  • Several well-respected organizations have partnered with them

Cons:

  • Growing, but still primarily a DC-VA-MD organization

Working Cars for Working Families

screenshot of the working cars for working families homepage

Working Cars for Working Families is a project of the National Consumer Law Center.

Their purpose is to help working families secure reliable vehicles at fair terms.

They coordinate with multiple partners to help facilitate struggling families to get access to a vehicle.

Much of their work is advocacy, sticking up for working families, coordinating with non-profit charities, and providing muscle legally when needed to address consumer protection abuse.

Pros:

  • Very well established and recognized for excellence
  • Possess multiple resources
  • Do not hesitate to right wrongs when they find them

Cons:

  • They are a great middleman, but essentially a middleman

Other Car Assistance Programs

The following are organizations that frequently provide vehicle assistance by either working with charities or running their charity programs.

Churches That Help with Car Repairs

Many churches have an active charity wing that assists those in need and the working poor.

Often, the church can provide a contact for free, at cost, or nominal cost repair work.

School Programs

Some schools and charities have programs for students to get vehicles at no cost or little cost.

Students must show a need to qualify.

The school public relations or community outreach office will have contacts for those types of programs.

Donation from Local Dealers

Many dealers donate vehicles to charities that the dealers no longer want to sell or cannot sell at a profit.

The vehicles are inspected and road-worthy.

The best way to figure out what charities a dealer gives to is to contact the dealer or look on their website.

Alternative: Where to Get Cheap Cars

These are primarily social media platforms for if you do not qualify for a free vehicle.

They will usually cost money or at least have repairs that are needed.

1. Facebook Marketplace

Marketplace is an online forum where private owners can post vehicles.

Used vehicles that are reasonably priced are almost always listed.

The trick is to find a seller that is honest and knows the state of their vehicle.

Expect repairs if you purchase an inexpensive vehicle.

2. Craigslist

Craiglist is similar to Facebook Marketplace, but with less stringent requirements for sellers.

It is easy to find a less expensive vehicle on Craigslist, but make sure you inspect the vehicle first.

3. Goodwill

Goodwill Industries will occasionally get donated vehicles.

Contacting your local Goodwill store is the best way to find out what they have and at what price.

Make sure you have a donated vehicle from Goodwill inspected by a professional mechanic.

4. Nextdoor App

Nextdoor App is another social media outlet that has an online marketplace.

The same rules apply here as apply to Facebook and Craigslist.

5. GoFundMe

This online service is a crowdfunding platform.

It can help you raise money for you to buy a vehicle.

The important aspect of this program is to have a compelling story that can be verified.

Frequently Asked Questions

vector image showing woman handing man car keys - how to rent out your car graphic

Can I get a loan without proof of income?

Proof of income is generally required to secure a loan.

Can I get a car loan if I am unemployed?

There are government programs and charities that provide you with a vehicle even if you are unemployed, provided you meet the rest of their eligibility criteria.

Is there a place to get a free car seat for my vehicle?

Medicaid offers a free car seat program. Some charities do as well. Call around to charities and ask.

Wrapping Up

Free vehicles are available if you do the research.

More likely, you can secure financial assistance to buy a vehicle, get a loan or make repairs to an existing vehicle.

If you need financial assistance or a free vehicle, contact any of the charities or government programs mentioned above.

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