TurboTax / Tax Calculators & Tips / All Tax Guides / Tax Deductions and Credits / How Do I Estimate the Value of My Donated Car for My Tax Deduction?

How Do I Estimate the Value of My Donated Car for My Tax Deduction?

Updated for Tax Year 2015


Deducting your car donation can save you a significant amount of income tax.

Donating your car to charity can be a good deal for both you and the organization you give it to. A charity may keep your vehicle for its own use, donate it to someone in need or sell it to obtain the cash. Deducting your car donation can save you a significant amount of income tax; however, the IRS increased the documentation requirements you must adhere to. To avoid having the IRS question your deduction, be sure to follow the guidelines and keep every document that proves your donation.

Step 1 - Find a qualified charity

The most important step in deducting the value of your car donation is to insure the charity you donate it to is an IRS tax-exempt organization. Only the donations you make to these types of organizations allow you to claim the deduction. Generally, these include religious groups, charities and organizations that promote education, literacy, scientific or humanitarian causes.

Step 2 - Estimate the value of your car

Look up the fair market value of your car in a used-car guide such as the Kelley Blue Book. Find the make, model and year for your car and use the listed private-party value for the overall condition of the vehicle. For example, if the body is dented, the air-conditioning doesn't work and it has excessive mileage, it’s unreasonable to estimate the fair market value using the price for a car in “excellent” condition.

Step 3 - Determine usage

Find out how the organization intends to use the car. If it's going to sell the car, the IRS limits your deduction to the sale price, even if it’s below the market value. However, if it sells for $500 or less, you can claim a deduction for the lesser of its fair market value or $500. If the organization plans to keep the car, then you can deduct the value you found in the used-car price guide. If that value is greater than $5,000 and the charity doesn’t sell the car, then the IRS requires you to obtain a written appraisal before claiming a deduction.

Step 4 - Acquire documentation

Ask the charity for documentation. If it sells the car, IRS rules state that it must inform you of the sale amount within 30 days, generally on a Form 1098-C. Regardless of whether it keeps or sells the car, the organization must provide you with a written acknowledgement that serves as your proof of the donation. At a minimum, the document must include your name and Social Security number, the vehicle identification number, the date of contribution and a statement that either lists all goods and services you receive for the donation or confirms that you received nothing. If you do receive something of value from the organization, you must reduce your deduction by its value.

Things You'll Need

  • IRS Publication 78
  • Documentation from the charity


  • Your donation is not complete until you transfer the car’s title to the charity. This also ensures you won't be held liable if the car racks up parking tickets.

Get every deduction you deserve

TurboTax Deluxe searches more than 350 tax deductions and credits so you get your maximum refund, guaranteed.

For only $54.99$34.99*
Start for Free

The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.

* Important Offer Details and Disclosures
  • Try for Free/Pay When You File: TurboTax online and mobile pricing is based on your tax situation and varies by product. Actual prices are determined at the time of print or efile and are subject to change without notice. Special discount offers may not be valid for mobile in-app purchases.
  • TurboTax CD/Download products: Price includes tax preparation and printing of federal tax returns and free federal efile of up to 5 federal tax returns. Additional fees apply for efiling state returns. E-file fees do not apply to New York state returns. Prices subject to change without notice.
  • TurboTax Mobile: Actual prices are determined at the time of print or efile and are subject to change without notice. Come back here before you file to confirm that the price has not changed, especially if it's been a while since you downloaded this app.
  • Anytime, anywhere: Internet access required; standard message and data rates apply to download and use mobile app features and content. TurboTax mobile app devices supported include Android 4.1 and above, iOS 8 on iPhone 4s and above, and iPad 2.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with efile and direct deposit; tax refund timeframes will vary.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: A $34.99 Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice.
  • About our TurboTax Product Experts: Customer service and product support (phone or chat) vary by time of year. Phone support not included with Free Edition.
  • About our credentialed tax experts: Live tax advice service is available for your toughest tax questions; fees may apply. Service, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice. Click here for full terms and conditions. Not available for TurboTax Business customers.
  • Get up to 10% on top of your federal refund: Amazon.com Gift Card offer is for federal refunds only. Limits apply ($2000 per e-card, maximum $10,000 per customer). Offer available only for TurboTax Online (except Federal Free Edition) or CD/download versions sold and shipped, or downloaded directly from Intuit or Amazon. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards cannot be canceled, transferred for value or redeemed for cash.

    Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards ('GCs') cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2013 TurboTax products.
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars: Average based on customer ratings on TurboTax.com for TurboTax Online and CD/download products tax year 2014, as of January 2015.
  • Most Popular: TurboTax Deluxe is our most popular product among TurboTax Online users with more complex tax situations.
  • TurboTax CD/Download priority phone support: Priority phone support for TurboTax CD/Download Premier and Home & Business is accessible exclusively via the TurboTax.com Help Center.
  • Benefit Assist: After you file, TurboTax automatically shows you a full list of government benefits you may qualify for, like Food Stamps or reduced phone & utilities. Plus, we help you apply, saving you time and making it easier than ever to get more money! Estimate based on calculation of Benefit Assist users from tax year 2013 and published reports of average benefit and savings amounts from federal and state programs. Actual amounts and qualifications based on your individual situation; some individuals will not qualify. Feature may not be available for all customers.
  • Simplified State Experience: New, simplified state tax preparation available for most filers.
  • Eligibility for $25 cash back for returning Deluxe customers: Customers who have completed their 2013 taxes in TurboTax Deluxe (CD or download), and have completed their 2014 taxes in either TurboTax Premier or TurboTax Home & Business (CD or download), and apply here before 11:59PM PDT April 20, 2015, are eligible for $25 back. 2014 TurboTax Advantage users are ineligible for this offer. Terms and conditions are subject to change without notice.
  • $0 Upgrade Offer: Valid for customers who filed their 2013 taxes with TurboTax Deluxe (CD or download), completed prior year data transfer this year, and encounter an upgrade to either 2014 TurboTax Premier or 2014 TurboTax Home & Business (CD or download). Valid February 6, 2015 through April 20, 2015. TurboTax Advantage users are ineligible for this offer. This offer may not be combined with our $25 cash back offer. Terms and conditions are subject to change without notice.