Sustainable Living & Sustainable Lifestyle

Recycling that old clunker can do wonders for the planet

The Benefits (Think Green) Of Donating Vs. Selling Your Used Car

The decision to sell a used car typically prompts a vehicle owner to think of the “green” — as in money — that he or she will collect once the sale is complete. If you are considering parting with a car, however, you should know that donating a used car instead of selling it also can generate a benefit considered “green” — as in environmentally friendly — along with other benefits.

Selling a car typically entails first competitively pricing the car while trying to balance ensuring that you profit. You then place an ad and wait for potential buyers to call. The sale puts cash in your pocket, but the process can be a hassle and may require a huge time investment.

Donating your car to charity is easier — plus you help an organization and may qualify for a tax deduction. Here’s a closer look at the pros and cons to donating, including the green benefits

The Case for Helping the Environment

Donating CarsRealistically, selling an older car is not going to bring you a lottery-like payout. Knowing you helped the planet and the sustainability cause by donating your vehicle instead of selling will generate a sense of satisfaction, though. Here are some ways a vehicle donation helps the environment:

  • Donating could result in taking an inefficient vehicle off the road. If you part with an old clunker via a private sale, it’s likely to remain in use, spewing harmful emissions and polluting our air.
  • Those little fluid leaks that many older cars suffer from add up. Oil, gas and antifreeze can contaminate soil, and the run-off can do the same to water.
  • A reputable charity that accepts your donation will have expertise or network connections to make optimal use of the recyclable parts. With many cars, 75 to 90 percent of the parts are recyclable.
  • Re-using steel is particularly green. For one thing, it reduces the need to destroy the landscape and wildlife habitat via mining. Perhaps more important, the energy saved by recycling steel instead of manufacturing it from raw materials is enough to generate power for 18 million homes for a full year.

More Pros Associated With Car Donation

  • Car donations help others. Charities that accept car donations use the funds created from the donation to support their programs. Your donation equips the charity to help and serve people. You can feel good about your donation as you support a cause you believe in and make your community a better place.
  • Car donation saves you time. Selling your car entails not only taking out an ad, but also making yourself available so interested parties can take it for test rides. And then there’s the whole price negotiation process …
  • Car donations may be tax deductible. According to IRS guidelines, vehicle donations are tax deductible when given to 501(c)(3) organizations if you itemize deductions. Be sure to choose a reputable charity and keep all of the paperwork related to your donation.


  • You get no cash for car donations. Your car, especially if it’s in good condition, could be a good source of cash, and proceeds could help pay for a new car. Realize that if you decide to donate it instead of selling it privately or trading it in to a dealership, you won’t get any money for the vehicle.
  • All charities are not equally trustworthy. No one wants to think that charities can be dishonest, but some are. Do your homework and use nonprofit watchdogs such as Charity Navigator or Charity Watch to check a charity’s rating.

Many charities welcome vehicle donations. Weigh the pros and cons of donating versus selling, and don’t underestimate the potential environmental benefits as you decide whether to donate and make your community a better place.

Author bio: Jeremy Silverstein is Vice President of Operations and Vehicle Dispatching at Goodwill Car Donations. During the five years he’s been with the organization, Silverstein has handled tens of thousands of donated vehicles, becoming quite an expert in his field. 

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