Tips & News

Donating Your Car and Switching to an EV

Boosting your tax benefit, along with exponentially lowering your environmental impact

Electric Vehicles at charging station. Photo by pixabay.
Electric Vehicles at charging station. Photo by pixabay.

Thanks to COVID and its economic fallout, the automotive industry had a pretty grim year. Passenger vehicles sales dropped 13 percent compared to 2019. But around the world, EV, or electric vehicle, sales soared 39 percent compared to 2019, representing an historically high five percent market share of all the vehicles produced.

If you've been driving an old heap for a while now, you’ve probably thought about whether an EV is right for you. With the price falling, more charging infrastructure available and more and more electric vehicles on the market from both new and established manufacturers, there’s never been a better time to make the switch. And, if you donate a vehicle to NPR when you do buy an EV, you’ll realize additional benefits compared to those who simply trade or sell their old jalopies.

Environmental Benefits

The average internal-combustion-powered vehicle on the road today emits 4.7 metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, according to a fact sheet published by the EPA. By switching to an electric vehicle, you bring your tailpipe emissions down to ZERO.

Of course, the people who are wedded to internal combustion engines will tell you that you don’t get a pass on your emissions. That’s because the energy that powers your EV has emissions, too.

But those emissions can represent just a fraction of the CO2 emissions created by gasoline and diesel powered vehicles. Taken as an average, EVs represent a CO2 equivalent of about 3,774 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per vehicle. Vehicles that are powered by internal combustion represent 11,435 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per vehicle. In other words, EVs generate about one-third of the CO2 emissions compared to a gas-powered car.

And the emissions picture gets even better in certain states. Maine, for example, relies on hydroelectric, wind and biomass for about 78 percent of the electricity it uses. As a result, if you’re a resident of Portland, Maine and you own an EV, you only generate 852 pounds of CO2. If you’re driving a car with a gas engine-- you guessed it-- it’s the same 11,435 pounds.

Even in states like West Virginia, where 80 percent of the electricity generated comes from coal, each EV still emits 21 percent less CO2 than a car powered by gasoline.

Consider that about half of the cars that get donated to the Car Talk Vehicle Donation Program are sent to recyclers so that they can be disassembled for parts, and that’s thousands of polluters off the road every single year, all to support your favorite NPR station. It’s a win-win.

Tax Benefits

Depending on which EV you choose, you might be eligible for the full $7,500 EV tax credit from the federal government. Not all EVs qualify. Buying a Tesla, for example doesn’t qualify for the full tax credit because Tesla has reached the 200,000 vehicle threshold set by the federal government. As a means of getting manufacturers to build EVs, the government allowed for the $7,500 credit up until the manufacturer sold its 200,000th vehicle. After that, the credit drops to $3,500, and then tapers down to $0. Tesla has sold enough vehicles that it doesn’t qualify for the tax credit at all.

The vehicles that do qualify for the full tax credit is ever changing, so check with the EPA’s website for a fully updated list. At the time of this writing, for example, GM’s EVs like the Bolt will lose their tax credit by March 31, 2021. So if you’re planning on buying a Bolt, you’d better get moving.

Based on what state you live in, the tax and other benefits keep coming. States like Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, California, Massachusetts, Oregon and New York all offer tax credits between $2,000 (New York) and $5,000 (Colorado and Connecticut). It’s interesting to note that seven out of the top 10 NPR stations have listening areas that cover those 10 states with the most generous tax benefits for switching to an EV.

Then there’s the tax benefit of donating a car. The tax benefit depends on how much your car sells for after being donated. So, for example, if the car you donated to the Car Talk Vehicle Donation Program sells for $3,000, that’s the tax benefit you’ll receive, even if the car has an average value in a used car pricing guide of $4,500.

One of the questions we field all the time is “Can I donate my car if it’s not running?” The answer is yes, and for you, that benefit could be worth significantly more than the car actually sells for. If the car sells for $50, you’re allowed a $500 in tax credit, regardless of the sale price, as long as it is less than $500. If it is over $500, of course you can deduct that amount.

What You Buy Makes a Difference

Ideally, you donate your car to the Car Talk Vehicle Donation Program, and you decide to ride a bike everywhere instead of driving. But that’s not practical for most people, who still need to commute to work. Even if you work close to public transportation, you might not live close to it, so you’re probably going to need some kind of vehicle.

What you choose to drive has a dramatic impact on how much fuel we use collectively, and how much in the way of pollution and greenhouse gasses we emit. And the average vehicle in the United States isn’t getting any better. Despite all the advances in technology over the last 30 years, fuel economy hasn’t improved at all. That’s because of what most of us are driving larger vehicles, like SUVs.

In 2019, the average fuel economy of every passenger vehicle with under a 10,000 pound gross vehicle weight rating was 24.9 mpg. In 1991, the average fuel economy for the same vehicles was 24.4 mpg. We’ve managed to improve by 0.5 MPG in 28 years, and it’s all because we choose to drive inefficient vehicles like trucks, SUVs and crossovers.

When you donate your car to the Car Talk Vehicle Donation Program and you buy your next car, think about the environmental impact. Back when we started this program, many years ago, there wasn’t a whole lot of choice in the market. But there is now, and that choice is growing almost by the month. By 2030, Deloitte estimates that 32 percent of all cars sold in the United States will be EVs. Get ahead of the trend, and help the environment while you’re helping your favorite NPR station.


Q: How do I donate a car to NPR?

A: Just click on the Donate button above, or call us at 1-877-215-0227. We'll help you get started.

Q: What paperwork do I need to have ready?

A: We have a handy checklist of how to donate a vehicle in all 50 states. Check the process for your state, which includes how to fill out and sign the title, and whether or not you need to have a notary public present when you do it.

Q: My vehicle doesn’t run. Is it still ok to donate to an NPR station?

A: Yes! If you have a vehicle that won’t run, a vehicle donation is a great way to move that car along and support your favorite public radio station.

Q: How much of my donation is used to fund programs?

A: The Car Talk Vehicle Donation Program delivers 80% of the revenues generated through a donation directly to the public radio station of your choice.

Q: Can I donate things other than a car through the Car Talk Vehicle Donation Program?

A: YES! We’ll take your swamp buggy, car, truck, van, SUV, motorcycle, RV, travel trailer, boat, and lots of other modes of transportation as a donation. Arkansas doesn’t require a title on things like boats, mopeds or snowmobiles, so check with us on the requirements before donating.

Further Reading