How to Get a Car for Free: Apply Through a Charity? Fundraise Online?

There are two main ways how to get a new car for free: by applying for a car through a charity or by setting up a fundraising site to ask friends and family for help buying a car. Charities like Online Car Donation and Vehicles for Change award vehicles to men, women, and families in need. Fundraising sites like Fundly and GoFundMe work primarily through shares and social media to reach out to family and friends, and even strangers, to raise the funds you need to get a car.

Although there are many federal programs to help people who are struggling financially, the government does not currently offer grants or assistance for those in need of transportation. That’s why we’ve compiled the information you need to secure a car for the lowest possible price — free. Here’s how to get a free car from the government and other options…

Apply Through Charities

The most common way to access help getting a car is to apply for a vehicle through a charitable organization. Many charities that offer free cars have strict eligibility requirements and typically only offer them to low-income families.

1. Free Charity Cars

Note: Free Charity Cars has suspended taking new applications. It hopes to open up the application process in the future.

  • Program: Free Charity Cars provides cars to victims of domestic violence, the medically needy, victims of natural disasters, families transitioning from public assistance to work, families living in transitional living shelters, the working poor, non-profit organizations, and military families. Cars are given out as they are donated, so sometimes it can take a while to receive one after applying.
  • Eligibility requirements:
    • U.S. resident
    • 18 years or older
    • Valid driver’s license
    • At or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level
    • Stated need for a vehicle
    • Access to a computer and internet service
    • Able to pay for fees such as insurance, license plates, registration, emissions tests, etc.
  • How to apply:
    1. Create an account on the Free Charity Cars website.
    2. Create an application found under the “Apply For a Car” tab.
    3. Generate votes and stay active on the site. Generating votes increases your chances of getting a car and there are many ways to earn votes, including voting on others’ pages, getting friends to donate to Free Charity Cars, writing a blog post on the site, inviting others to the site, completing your profile, linking social media to your page, and more.
  • Learn more on the Free Charity Cars website

2. Online Car Donation

  • Program: Online Car Donation gives cars to battered women, individuals with physical disabilities who are still able to safely operate a vehicle, families living in homeless shelters, self-supporting families making the transition away from public assistance, non-profit organizations, and military families. Donation decisions are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
  • Eligibility requirements:
    • Must be making positive steps toward improving your circumstances
    • Must not have contributed to the creation of those circumstances
  • How to apply: Fill out an application on the Online Car Donation website describing your need for a vehicle. If you’ve been selected to receive a car, you’ll be contacted within 30 days.
  • Learn more on the Online Car Donation website

3. Vehicles For Change

  • Program: Vehicles for Change takes car donations from the public, makes the cars “road ready,” and then awards them to families in need. (Note: Cars through Vehicles for Change aren’t completely free — the organization’s website says they are awarded “at affordable prices.”)
  • Eligibility requirements:
    • Must live in Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, or Michigan
    • Valid driver’s license
    • No DWIs or DUIs on your driving record
    • No other vehicle in your household
    • Drug-free
    • Must have a job offer or be working at least 30 hours a week
    • Able to cover fees for taxes, tags, and title (approximately $500)
    • If you are under the age of 25, then you must have children
    • Able to afford the ongoing cost of car ownership (insurance, fuel, and repairs as needed)
  • How to apply: The application process for Vehicles for Change varies based on which state you live in. Visit the Request a Donated Car page for details.
  • Learn more on the Vehicles for Change website

4. With Causes

  • Program: With Causes provides free cars to families in need, social service agencies, and charitable organizations.
  • Eligibility requirements: With Causes reviews each vehicle request on a case-by-case basis.
  • How to apply: Fill out an application on the With Causes website. The application asks for your full name, email address, phone number, city, and state as well as a paragraph or letter describing your need for a vehicle.
  • Learn more on the With Causes website

If you’re planning to apply for a free car through a charitable organization, be sure to do your homework first. You can look into the reputation of charitable organizations by using sites like GuideStar, Charity Navigator, or CharityWatch.

Fundraise Online

If you don’t meet the eligibility requirements to apply for a free car via a non-profit organization, don’t despair! You can also start a crowdfunding campaign to request help from family and friends. Although it can be hard to ask for help, many people who use crowdfunding to raise money for a car say that they end up getting more than just a vehicle — they end up learning how many people truly care for them and want them to succeed.

The sites listed below are crowdfunding sites, which means you can create a personal page on the website explaining your need for a car and asking others to donate. If you choose to fundraise for a free car using one of these sites, be sure to spend time setting up your page and sharing it with others. It’s important to tell your story in the most compelling way possible. Uploading pictures and videos and posting frequent updates to your page will help. Crowdfunding works primarily through shares on social media.

1. Fundly

Fundly allows you to connect a Gmail, Yahoo, Survey Monkey, or Constant Contact account to make it easier for you to get the word out to friends and family.

  • How to apply: Click “Start Your Campaign” at the top right of the Fundly homepage.
  • Fees: 4.9% platform fee, plus 2.9% + $.30 per transaction
  • Money arrives: Bank transfer
  • Get started on the Fundly website

2. GoFundMe

GoFundMe is the world’s largest online fundraising platform. The site offers a guarantee that protects donated funds.

  • How to apply: Click “Start a GoFundMe” at the top right of the homepage.
  • Fees: No platform fee; 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction
  • Money arrives: Check or bank transfer
  • Get started on the GoFundMe website

3. GoGetFunding

GoGetFunding allows you to raise money in 23 different currencies and gives you ongoing access to the money you raise.

  • How to apply: Click “Start Fundraising” at the top right of the GoGetFunding homepage.
  • Fees: 4% platform fee, plus 2.9% + $0.25-$0.30 per transaction.
  • Money arrives: Bank transfer or PayPal
  • Get started on the GoGetFunding website

4. YouCaring

YouCaring doesn’t take home any platform fees — they only charge you the donation processor fee.

  • How to apply: Click “Start a Free Fundraiser” on the YouCaring homepage.
  • Fees: No platform fee; 2.9% + $.30 per transaction
  • Money arrives: WePay or PayPal
  • Get started on the YouCaring website

In Summary

And that’s how to get a car for free. Applying for a free car through a charitable organization or raising money through a crowdfunding platform can help you get the wheels you need at little or no cost. If you’re applying for a car through a charity, you’ll need to meet certain eligibility requirements and do your research to make sure you’re working with a reputable non-profit. Generally, non-profits that give away free charity cars target low-income families who need help building financial stability.

If you don’t meet the eligibility requirements of a charity program, then crowdfunding might be the way to go. Crowdfunding allows you to raise money for a car from friends, family, and even strangers by setting up a personal campaign online. Fees and payment methods vary by crowdfunding platform and you’ll need to make sure your messaging is thoughtful and compelling.

Once you get a free car, make sure to maintain it so it lasts. A properly maintained car can last decades. To find out more about how long a car can last and how to increase its lifespan, see our article, How many miles can you put on a car before it dies?. To understand how the buying process works, you should know if you can drive a car you just bought without plates.

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  • Once someone tried to convince me that the drivers seat that wouldn’t lean back in his ancient for sale volvo was a safety feature.

    Nice, well written, article.

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Thanks for the compliment, Aaron!

      Ah, the no-lean seat feature must be why Volvo’s are so safe! Haha.