How to get a free car (for single moms and low-income families)

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One of the most important necessities for many people is a reliable car. But for those who are struggling financially, buying a vehicle or repairing the one you have is simply out of reach.

Fortunately, there is help for those who need a free car. Keep reading to learn more:

FreeCharityCars.org

FreeCharityCars.org is the free car division of 1-800-Charity Cars, a nonprofit organization that accepts donated vehicles to be given to families who are without transportation. The organization has been featured on Oprah, Good Morning America and in People magazine. The company has gifted more than 9,000 cars nationwide.

How do you qualify for a donated car from FreeCharityCars.org?

Free Charity Cars gives away donated cars throughout the United States to those in need, including:

  • Domestic violence victims
  • 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
  • Military families

Those interested in applying for a free car from Free Charity Cars can complete the vehicle request form on the website, which requires applicants:

  • U.S. resident 
  • 18 years old
  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Be at or below 200% of the federal poverty level
  • Have a genuine need for a vehicle
  • Have access to a computer and internet service
  • Have the financial means to pay for tags, title, emissions, insurance, etc.

Cars 4 Heroes

Cars 4 Heroes is a registered nonprofit that provides free vehicles to veterans, active-duty military, first responders —  and their families if they do not have the means to obtain their own. The charity was founded in 1996 by used car business owners Terry Franz and Mike Van Noy with the program Cars 4 Christmas and gave away six cars that year. Today, the organization gifts between 200 and 300 cars every year through Cars 4 Heroes. Charity officials announce awarded vehicles every Monday on radio station FM 101 The Fox in Kansas City, and the organization opens the program up to everyone at Christmas.

How do you qualify for a donated car from Cars 4 Heroes?

Those interested in applying for a free car from Cars 4 Heroes can do so on the website.

Required information on the application includes:

  • Name and contact
  • Military status and service
  • Honors and discharge
  • Military ID photo
  • Details about need

Good News Garage

Good News Garage has donated 5,500 cars to those in need who live in Vermont and Massachusetts since its founding in 1996. The nonprofit is working to expand to New Hampshire. 

The charity is part of Ascentria Care Alliance, Lutheran Community Services, according to GuideStar. 

How do you qualify for a donated car from Good News Garage?

The program awards vehicles to Vermont residents in partnership with the Department of Children and Families’ Reach Up program and to Massachusetts residents in partnership with the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.

Vehicles for Change

Since 1999, Vehicles for Change has provided 7,500+ cars to those in need in Maryland and Virginia.

The organization does not give away cars for free. Instead, the charity, which is verified by GuideStar, sells the donated cars for about $700 and sets the individual or family up with a 12-month, low-interest loan, which in turn helps them establish credit.

How do you qualify for a donated car from Vehicles for Change?

To be eligible, Maryland and Virginia residents must work with a sponsoring agency and meet the following:

  • Resident of Maryland or Virginia
  • Referred by one of the sponsoring agencies listed here
  • Have a verifiable job offer or be working at least 30 hours a week
  • Have a driver’s license in the state in which you reside
  • Be insurable (no DWIs or DUIs)
  • Not have any other vehicle in your household
  • You must be drug free
  • Be able to cover fees for taxes, tags, and title (approximately an additional $500)
  • If you are under the age of 25, you must have children
  • You may need to meet additional criteria required by your sponsoring agency

Wheels for Work/Wheels to Work programs

There are many Wheels for Work programs across the country. A Google search of the term “wheels for work near me” can help track down programs in each area. These programs typically connect those in need with reliable, affordable transportation, rather than awarding free cars.

For example, the Wisconsin Automotive & Truck Education Association (WATEA) offers a Wheels to Work program that helps income-eligible residents secure an affordable car through job access loans.

How do you qualify for a donated car from Wheels to Work/Wheels for Work programs?

Potential applicants can research online for local programs. Review the qualification and guidelines for each program to determine eligibility.

Working Cars for Working Families

The National Consumer Law Center’s Working Cars for Working Families program serves as a support system for low-income families and the charities that help those families with transportation.

How do they help?

  • Improves consumer protection to stop abuse in car sales and finance
  • Promotes nonprofit efforts to provide cars or financing to those in need
  • Collects data and analysis regarding car ownership and working families

The organization also publishes a comprehensive list of find-a-car programs across the nation on its website.

Churches

Churches have long been a place to turn to for help, and many low-income families can find assistance with transportation needs there as well.

Catholic Charities USA runs a vehicle donation program that benefits those struggling to afford a car. In addition to providing a car, some churches also help with car repairs and affordable vehicle loans.

What are some other faith-based organizations that can help?

Search for local chapters of these faith organizations and inquire about help with vehicles:

  • United Methodist Church
  • Jewish Federation of North America
  • Lutheran Social Services
  • Episcopal Church
  • Knights of Columbus
  • The Salvation Army

Local car dealerships

Car dealerships aren’t nonprofit charitable organizations, but many of them do offer give-a-ways and promotional events, especially around the holidays. These events could prove successful for someone in need of a car.

Chat with representatives from local dealerships and small car lot owners about what they may have to offer in terms of community and charitable events or cars they may be willing to let go of for little money.

FAQs about getting a free car

How can I get a car with no money?

If you're ready to buy a car, but money is a problem, we recommend 1800FreshStart, a marketplace for auto loans. 1800FreshStart is a quality service:

  • Better Business Bureau rating of A+
  • APRs starting at 1.74%
  • Buy or refinance a car
  • Available to buyers who have low or no credit, or who have gone through bankruptcy
  • Apply for an auto loan within 90 seconds

Qualify for a car loan with 1800FreshStart now >>

A realistic budget is the best way to determine your car-buying ability. Consider all the details, like a trade-in value, credit score and other factors. More on this below.

If the purchase of a car is not in the budget, consider selling some unwanted valuables, such as jewelry or clothes on consignment, or household items at a pawnshop to get some extra funds together.

How can I get a free car from the government?

There are some grant programs that may provide help with the purchase of a car for people in some circumstances. Benefits.gov details government programs for low-income families and individuals. By qualifying for some programs, such as child care assistance, it could free up income that could go towards a car loan.

Can Goodwill help me get a car?

The Goodwill Wheels to Work program allows low-income individuals to purchase a car for low, interest-free payments. The program is not available in all areas, however, so those interested should check with a local Goodwill Industries Headquarters.

Not eligible for a free car?

Navigating the car-buying experience isn’t as easy as waltzing into a dealership and picking one out, snagging the keys and. Especially for first-time car buyers.

Here's what to do when you begin the car-buying process:

1. Determine if you can afford a car.

Whether you need to replace a junker, buy the car of your dreams, or just find a reliable vehicle within your budget, affording a car can be challenging.

The first step is to decide how much car you can afford — not figuring out how to buy the luxury ride of your dreams.

First, use a car affordability calculator on sites like NerdWallet or Edmunds that take into account details such as:

  • Monthly payment
  • Down payment
  • Trade-in value of your current car
  • Sales tax
  • Interest rate
  • Length of payment term
  • Vehicle price

A big part of getting the car you want is knowing your budget. Ask yourself, ‘How much car loan can I afford?’ You might also consider buying without financing — a good option for less expensive cars.

2. Get your credit score

Arguably the most daunting part for many people is figuring out how to get a loan for a car. And there’s no denying it: financing a new is an art as well as a science.

It’s always a good idea to regularly check your credit score, but it’s even more important to know it before you head into the car-buying process. 

Unlike mortgages or credit cards, even those with poor credit can (usually) get a car loan. The downside is you’ll end up paying a whole lot more in high-interest rates when your credit score is low. (Read: How to repair your credit)

3. Should you finance a car purchase or pay cash?

Deciding whether to pay cash or finance a car? Consider: Do you have enough cash? This may seem obvious, but even if the answer is ‘yes’ the question is really: Can you afford to pay cash for a good car? Because even if you buy a $7,000 vehicle with no loan, you may have to invest time and money in repairs and maintenance of an older car.

4. Do your car research

Before you step foot in a dealership, or answer any online ads for cars for sale, research the invoice price of the car(s) you’re interested in. The invoice price is the amount the dealer pays a manufacturer for the car. Dealerships often add thousands of dollars to this price to turn a profit, but unless you’re looking for an all-new or very popular model, you should be able to negotiate a price closer to invoice.

Here are some services to help with research: 

  • TrueCar: TrueCar Price Reports show what other people in your area have paid for the exact car you’ve got your eye on, which you can print out and put right up in the face of the car salesperson. It’s free.
  • Kelley Blue Book: Another helpful tool for finding out a car’s value is Kelley Blue Book. This goldmine of vehicle resources helps you research and price the value of the car you want, whether it’s a new car or a used car. Use KBB.com to find out what you can expect to pay based on what others have paid. It’s free to research prices.

CarFax: Dealers and private owners have a tendency to fudge a little when it comes to disclosing the car’s entire history. Simply enter the car’s VIN number or license plate info and CarFax will have access to its accident history, services and repairs, recall info, lemon history, and way more, so you can make an informed decision. Sometimes dealers offer CarFax reports at no cost.

5. How do I negotiate a car price?

It can be intimidating to negotiate the price of the car you have identified. Here are some tips for making sure you get the best price for the car you choose:

  1. Secure an online lender before sitting at the negotiation table. This gives you a hard budget and interest rate to compare once a car dealer makes an offer.
  2. Ask about Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) insurance when financing a car. Good GAP insurance covers any outstanding costs outside of your auto insurance benefit if the car is totaled.
  3. Check out CarFax, where you can find used car listings, do a background check on the VIN, and present a 100% haggle-free price.

Need financial assistance? These posts can help:

Help for single moms: 16+ resources$500 monthly single mom grant
Free laptopsScholarships for single moms
Free clothesFree Christmas gifts
Free smartphoneBest jobs moms can do from home
Free wifiFree and low-cost prescriptions
Free formulaFree diapers
Free toysGovernment assistance for single moms
Free gasFree daycare
Free preschoolAffordable dentures
Free prescription glassesFree money
10+ charities that help single mothersTutoring and homework help
Free or low-cost after school programs

And check out our Steady app review.

How can I get a car with no money?

If you're ready to buy a car, but money is a problem, we recommend 1800FreshStart, a marketplace for auto loans.

How can I get a free car from the government?

There are some grant programs that may provide help with the purchase of a car for people in some circumstances. Benefits.gov details government programs for low-income families and individuals. By qualifying for some programs, such as child care assistance, it could free up income that could go towards a car loan.

Can Goodwill help me get a car?

The Goodwill Wheels to Work program allows low-income individuals to purchase a car for low, interest-free payments. The program is not available in all areas, however, so those interested should check with a local Goodwill Industries Headquarters.

Carla Dempsey is a writer and editor living in the beautiful Laurel Highlands region of southwestern Pennsylvania. She has worked in journalism for more than 25 years, producing and managing content for both print and online publications. She has been instrumental in launching numerous content products during her career, including an award-winning weekly entertainment magazine for a Pittsburgh-area newspaper. She also managed several magazines for readers looking for more information about health and wellness, caregiving, and wedding planning. She is a graduate of Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and has also studied Italian Renaissance Art in Italy. She lives with her husband, Gary, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, and two amazing children, Mason and Julia.

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