DMV Requirements for Car Donation

Donating your car to charity can be a very generous and rewarding act. In order to successfully donate your car, however, it is important to understand the steps you need to take to fulfill all your state's DMV requirements.

Steps to Car Donation

There are many steps to keep track of when donating your car. You have to find a charity you like and that accepts car donations. Then you have to accurately calculate the fair market value of your car in order to take the right tax deduction the following April—not to mention filing your taxes with the appropriate forms when necessary.

All of this is in addition to the process you would normally follow when selling or disposing of a car you own… a trip to your local DMV may to be hard to avoid.

Stay on top of the steps you will have to take when donating a car to charity:

  • Select a charity.
  • Understand the IRS requirements for car donations.
  • Don't forget the DMV requirements.
  • Cancel your car insurance as soon as you can.

Transferring Your Title to a Charity

The title of a car is its proof of ownership, and it will have to be transferred to the charity as part of the gift. If the charity you select regularly receives cars as donations, they will have a process set up to make the transfer of ownership of the car as easy as possible. Depending on where you live, you can usually transfer the title of the car without a trip to the local DMV.

Bring the vehicle title with you. You will need to sign it over to the charity, by filling all applicable fields on the title certificate. This often includes providing an odometer reading.

Several state DMVs also require you and the representative of the charity to complete a title transfer application. These are typically available through the DMV.

NOTE: Your state may require that all signatures on the title certificate and application forms be notarized.

Notify the DMV of the Title Transfer

Although the completion of the title transfer is the responsibility of the organization receiving the car donation, you should consider notifying the DMV that you have donated the car. This will help release you of any liability associated with the car.

This can often be accomplished through your state DMV's website, or by visiting your local DMV office.

Cancel Registration of Donated Cars

Some states require you to cancel your vehicle registration as soon as the car is no longer in your possession. This goes hand-in-hand with returning the license plates to your DMV (if necessary).

Many DMVs allow you to do this online. You can check with your state's DMV office to see whether a special trip is needed.


If you are canceling your registration before your next registration renewal is due, you may be able to get a partial refund for the time your car isn't going to be registered. Only a select few states offer these refunds, so check with your local DMV to see if you are eligible.

Return Your License Plates

While not always the case, most states allow you to keep your license plates whenever you transfer ownership of your car to another person or organization. This includes instances of car donation.

Some states may require you to surrender your plates to the DMV. This is usually done at a local DMV office or by mail.

Depending on your state, you may be able to transfer your plates to another car you own.

Cancel Your Car Insurance

Contact your car insurance agent or insurance company after donating a car. Ideally, you'd want your policy to end the day your car is gone. Your insurance agent or company will be able to tell you exactly what steps to follow to cancel your policy.

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