How to Get a Free Car for Low-Income Families

Maria Teijeiro/Lifesize/Getty Images

Not having a car can be debilitating, especially if your hometown has a less-than-excellent public transportation system. Since no federal programs are available, it can be tough for low-income families to access this essential form of transportation. Some nationwide and local not-for-profits recognize the necessity, and they accept car donations, which they then allocate to deserving families based on need.

Free Charity Cars

Free Charity Cars is the original not-for-profit car donation program. It accepts donated cars and gives them to low-income families at no cost. The awards process is a little unusual since it's essentially a community voting system. To sign up, fill out an online profile and explain why you are a deserving candidate. The applicant with the most votes wins a car donation when one becomes available in his area. You're expected to stay active on the site and promote the program as much as possible to win. Eligibility requirements apply – see the website's FAQ page for details.

With Causes Network

With Causes Charitable Network is a nationwide charitable-giving community. It connects those who want to help with the families that need help. As part of this mission, it allocates cars donated to needy families. To request help, fill out the online application form and explain your needs and circumstances. With Causes accepts virtually all the car donations made to it. If a car is working, it will be allocated to a deserving applicant based on need.

Cars 4 Christmas

Nationwide non-profit organization Cars 4 Christmas focuses on helping those who are going through hardship and need a vehicle. There's no specific eligibility criteria, but you will have to fill out an online application explaining why you need a vehicle and how it would change your life. The organization judges the applications and awards cars to families who fit their specifications. Recipients typically include people with disabled children and those in transitional housing. Cars 4 Christmas has a sister organization called Cars 4 Heroes that focuses on providing vehicles for low-income veterans and their families.

Local Programs

While not a car donation charity, Working Cars for Working Families maintains a database of car donation services for those looking to find a free car through local programs. For example, the Good News Garage administers car donations in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. To see what's available in your area, use the program locator on the WCWF website. Eligibility varies from program to program, so be sure to read up on the details before you apply.

Other Assistance

Once you are awarded a free car, you become responsible for title fees, car registration, insurance and maintenance. These costs can be substantial. Modest Needs is a nationwide nonprofit that encourages members of the public to make small, emergency donations to hardship-hit families. Many use the site for emergency fuel to get their children to school or doctor's appointments or for car repair costs to get their vehicle up and running again.