Charities That Offer Free Cars for Low Income Families

Anna Spooner
hands holding car

A car is vital for many Americans to get to work, medical appointments, and more. For those who can't afford a car, there are charities that offer free cars to those in need. These charities are generally locally based, and you can find them by contacting churches, the Department of Human Services or websites like Working Cars for Working Families.

1-800-Charity Cars

1-800-Charity Cars is a nationwide program that provides cars to low-income families. Visit the eligibility criteria page on their website to find out if you might qualify. If you meet the criteria, you will then need to fill out the online application form. You'll be asked to provide your story as to why you need the car, and to get votes on your profile. When the organization receives a car, they look at top vote-getters in the area and then reach out to verify their need.

There are a variety of requirements, including being at or below 200% of the poverty level, having a genuine need for a vehicle, and being able to afford insurance, title fees, and car registration. This charity focuses especially on victims of domestic violence or natural disasters, those in transitional housing, and those who have medical needs. There is no guarantee of getting a car, and this charity is not a good option for someone who needs a car quickly.

Cars 4 Christmas

Cars 4 Christmas, also known as C4C, is a nationwide non-profit organization that operates primarily in the Midwest areas of Kansas City, Wichita, Omaha, St. Louis and Springfield. The founder saw that people would be able to help themselves if they had transportation available, and so the organization focuses on helping those who are going through life hardships and need a vehicle.

To apply for a car for yourself or someone you know, fill out the online application, which requires a story about how the car would improve your (or the recipient's) life. Typical recipients include people with ill children, disabilities and medical conditions, and those in transitional housing.

Cars 4 Christmas also has a partner organization called Cars 4 Heroes that focuses on providing vehicles for veterans who are in need.

Good News Garage

The Good News Garage is a non-profit program of Lutheran Social Services that has given over 4,400 cars to families in need since its founding in 1996. Good News Garage operates in the New England area, including the states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

Each state has its own qualification criteria, so it is important to contact the office in your location for proper guidelines. This program supports families on public assistance who cannot afford cars on their own. Contact 877.GIVE.AUTO or visit their website for more information.

Find Cheap Cars on a Low Income

If you have applied for free cars and do not qualify, you may be able to find a cheap car though a program available to low-income families. Low-cost car programs are a great option if you need a car quickly, since the free car programs can take months to be approved for and there's no guarantee there will ever be a car available in your area.

Some great options for low-cost cars include:

  • Ways to Work is based in Wisconsin, but has a network of loan offices in several states throughout America that will work with needy families to provide financial education and help them secure affordable loans to purchase a vehicle. The organization describes itself as "a nonprofit financial empowerment loan program, helps working families move to greater levels of self-sufficiency with access to financial education and reliable transportation."
  • Vehicles for Change serves needy families in Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virgina, and Michigan by offering used cars at very low prices. To be eligible to purchase a car from them, you must be employed at least 30 hours per week and have funds available to pay the taxes, title, and tags on the vehicle. The vehicles available are donated by the public and then refurbished for use. Recipients are referred to the program through social services.
  • Goodwill Industries operates a low-cost loan program in San Antonio, Texas to help qualified recipients purchase affordable cars. You can contact a Goodwill near you to see if they have anything similar by using the online store locator and calling the number of your local Goodwill.

You can also look for inexpensive cars in your local classifieds section, eBay and online. Be sure to check the car over for any mechanical problems, as a cheap car really is not a deal if you end up spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to bring it into working order.

Transportation Options

Getting a car for free is not easy, but it may be possible if you qualify and have the time to wait for an available vehicle. For many people, finding an affordable car to purchase is an even better option, especially for those who need a car quickly.

Charities That Offer Free Cars for Low Income Families