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

Short Answer: There are two main ways to get a new car for free: you can apply for a car through a charity, or you can set up a personal fundraising site to ask friends and family for help. Charities like Online Car Donation and Vehicles for Change award vehicles to individuals and families in need. Fundraising sites like Fundly and GoFundMe work primarily through shares and social media to reach out to family, friends, and others to raise the funds you need to get a car. For more information, see below.

How to Get a Car for Free

When it comes to getting a car for free (or mostly free), your two best options are to apply for a car through a charitable organization or to set up a personal fundraising site. Most charities have certain qualifications that you will need to meet before applying for a car, but fundraising sites will let you set up a fund for virtually any purpose.

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. So, we’ve compiled the information you need to secure a car for the lowest possible price — free.

Apply Through a Charity

The most common way to get access to a free 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.

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, nonprofit organizations, and military families. Online Car Donation makes donation decisions 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 online application. If you’ve been selected to receive a car, you’ll be contacted within 30 days.
  • Find out more or apply

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, 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. For details, visit the Request a Donated Car page.
  • Find out more or apply

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 online application. 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.
  • Find out more or apply

Free Charity Cars

Note: Free Charity Cars has currently 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, nonprofit 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:
    • Create an account on the Free Charity Cars website.
    • Create an application found under the “Apply For a Car” tab.
    • 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.
  • Find out more

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

Fundraise Online

Using the sites below, you can create a personal page explaining your need for a car and asking others to donate. If you choose to fundraise for a 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, as crowdfunding works primarily through shares on social media. We’ve ordered the list below starting with the best overall options (and those that charge the lowest fees).

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% processing fee plus $0.30 per transaction
  • How to cash-out: Check or bank transfer
  • Find out more or get started

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% processing fee plus $0.30 per transaction
  • How to cash-out: WePay or PayPal
  • Find out more or get started

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; 2.9% processing fee plus $0.25 to $0.30 per transaction
  • How to cash-out: Bank transfer or PayPal
  • Find out more or get started

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; 2.9% processing fee plus $0.30 per transaction
  • How to cash-out: Bank transfer
  • Find out more or get started

In Summary

Applying for a free car through a charitable organization or raising money through a crowdfunding platform can help you get the vehicle 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 nonprofit organization. Generally, charities choose to give cars to low-income families who need help building financial stability. If you don’t meet the eligibility requirements of a charity program and choose to use a crowdfunding site, fees and payment methods will vary by platform.

Once you get a free car, you’ll likely want to make it last as long as possible. 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 about how many miles you can put on a car before it dies.

2 comments

  • 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.