How to Get a Free Car When You Can’t Afford One On Your Own
Our readers always come first
The content on DollarSprout includes links to our advertising partners. When you read our content and click on one of our partners’ links, and then decide to complete an offer — whether it’s downloading an app, opening an account, or some other action — we may earn a commission from that advertiser, at no extra cost to you.
Our ultimate goal is to educate and inform, not lure you into signing up for certain offers. Compensation from our partners may impact what products we cover and where they appear on the site, but does not have any impact on the objectivity of our reviews or advice.
Depending on where you live, having a car is a necessity.
It’s difficult to get to work, school, or raise children without a safe and dependable vehicle. And in many areas, public transportation isn’t available, affordable, or reliable, making a car the only plausible form of getting around.
Many people, like single moms and disabled individuals, find themselves needing a car but unable to afford one. Fortunately, there are organizations that recognize this and try to bridge the gap by giving away free cars.
While these organizations receive thousands of applications a year, and you do have to demonstrate financial need to qualify for one, if you do, it can make all the difference in your financial situation.
Does the Government Have Free Vehicle Programs?
There are a number of government programs and grants available to help cover your basic needs if you can’t provide for yourself or your family. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to get a free car from the government.
The government does offer grants, but those are for organizations and charities, not individual people. Many of the charities on this list receive some government funding to offer free cars to people in need.
All charities and other government programs have strict requirements to qualify for assistance.
If you fall into one of these categories, then you may qualify:
- Victims of natural disasters
- Those with medical needs
- Domestic violence victims
- Low-income families
- Homeless families living in shelters
- Active Military
Even though you can’t get a free car from the government, there are a number of other basic expenses that you can receive such as food, healthcare, housing, and in some cases financial support. Having your basics covered may give you room in your budget to save for your next vehicle.
Lastly, if you are on government assistance, then you need to be careful. Receiving a free car could count as “additional income” and make you ineligible for government support.
Related: 12 Free Ways to Make $500 Fast
Charities That Donate Vehicles to Disabled or Low-Income Individuals
The government isn’t the only way to get a free car. Many charities recognize that a vehicle can be the answer to lifting people out of poverty. Check the eligibility requirements of each charity and do some research to find the one that is the best fit for your needs.
Cars4Heroes provides free used cars to first responders and military veterans and their families. To qualify, you have to demonstrate that you are in need of a vehicle and unable to obtain one yourself.
They receive over 20,000 requests a year for a free car, so even if you qualify for this first one, check out the rest of this list and apply to every option possible.
Cars4Christmas is a non-profit organization that provides “free basic transportation to disadvantaged individuals.” Even though “Christmas” is in their name, they provide cars year-round to people in need.
Their founder recognized that many people were able to get many basic needs such as food, jobs, clothing, and shelter from other organizations, but few were able to provide transportation.
The organization helps people whose lives have been turned upside down by illness, death, tragedy, disability, or even natural disasters.
3. 800-Charity Cars
1-800-Charity has been helping people who need free cars since 1996. As an organization, they focus on accepting donated cars and raising the funds to provide free cars to people in need.
For people looking to donate, they offer free towing and make sure that 100% of the donations go towards helping people.
Cars they don’t work will be sold or repaired to working condition and given away.
Their application link takes you to a separate website, FreeCharityCars. Currently, they are overwhelmed with applications, but check back and they may be open again.
4. Online Car Donation
Online Car Donation is another charity that provides free cars to those in need. They review every application on a case-by-case basis and do their best to make sure that the free car is going to someone who needs it.
They focus on helping:
- Domestic violence victims
- People with disabilities
- Homeless families living in shelters
- Families trying to become self-supporting (getting off government assistance)
- Military families and veterans
- Other non-profit organizations
Their application is simple. You only need to provide some basic biographical information and a description of your need.
Similar name, but different organization from the one mentioned above. Online Car Donation aims to provide free cars to as many people and families in need as possible. If you want a free used car that is reliable, this is a great option. They also try to give away trucks or vans.
One of their requirements is for potential recipients is that they’re demonstrating efforts towards improving their circumstances. For example, they want to see applicants who are actively seeking employment and would benefit immediately from receiving a free car.
6. Vehicles for Change
Vehicles for Change is a charity that helps those who are on the road to being self-sufficient and need a vehicle to gain access to job opportunities. They help families in need in the states of Virginia, Maryland, and Michigan.
They have a specific and defined list of criteria in order to qualify:
- You must have a verifiable job offer or be working at least 30 hours a week
- You must have a driver’s license in the state in which you reside
- You must be insurable and have no DWIs or DUIs
- You must not have any other vehicle in your household
- You must be drug-free
- You must 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 must be able to afford the ongoing cost of car ownership (insurance, fuel, and repairs, as needed)
Vehicles for Change has the most lengthy list of requirements, but if you meet their list you may have good odds. They won’t be able to give you a free car, but it’ll be cheap and in working condition.
Other Ways to Potentially Get a Free Car
If you don’t meet the criteria for the charities above, then you might need to get creative in how you find yourself a car. These options will require you to get out of your comfort zone and ask people in your community or those closest to you for help.
7. Contact your local church
Many local churches have a line item in their budget for benevolence and could be one way to get a free car now. Churches have helped people whose homes have flooded, roofs have caved in, cars have stopped working, or for members who are down on their luck.
This option will work best if you’ve been involved with the church before coming to them in need. If you also need free clothes, your local church can likely help you.
8. Request a donation from a local dealer
Local dealerships usually don’t donate cars, but you may get lucky if they have an older model or a trade-in that they don’t think they can sell. If you’re facing hard times, try writing a letter to the manager of your local dealership explaining your circumstances..
Try doing this at the end of the year during the holiday season when people are feeling more charitable. The dealership may be more open to helping you out, especially if you’re willing to share your story publicly.
9. Check with your local Goodwill
Goodwill exists to help people who fall on hard times. Sometimes people will donate old cars so it is worth calling them to see if they have a free car you can use.
Your local Goodwill may also be able to connect you with resources in your community that can get you on your feet.
10. Ask friends and family for assistance
If you’re having a hard time finding a free car from charities or the government, consider asking your friends and family for help. It might be a big request to ask people you know for a free car, but they may be able to give you a loaner.
11. Check Craigslist
People are often trying to get rid of old, broken-down vehicles on Craigslist. It’s often more work or not worth the time for them to try to sell them. If you’re good with cars or know someone who is and is willing to assist you, this might be one way to get a free used car.
If the car is completely unsalvageable, you can always sell it for parts or scrap and put that money towards a car.
12. Start a GoFundMe
GoFundMe is another option for buying a car for cheap. If you feel comfortable, share your story about how you ended up on hard times. Emphasize how buying a car, or getting a free car, will help you start fresh.
Who knows, maybe a friend or family member will see it and offer to sell you one at a low cost.
A Free Used Car Could Change Your Financial Situation Overnight
When you’ve fallen on hard times, financially, it can often feel like you’re stuck in a cycle. You don’t have the money to buy a car and without a car, you can’t get to work, and it loops around again.
Finding a cheap or free car may be the solution you need. With a bit of research and hard work in filling out applications, you might find a free car that helps break the cycle and change your financial situation. The jobs that were once out of reach now feel possible.
But remember that even a free car isn’t truly free. You need to make sure you have money to cover essentials like car insurance and an emergency fund for repairs. You need to work monthly car maintenance into your budget, along with money for gas and any tolls.
The last thing you want is to get a car but have no means to keep it running.
And finally, a free car may not be the only thing you need. Some organizations can help you get a free laptop and there are plenty of ways to get free internet access as well. Taking all of these together is a big step towards improving your financial situation.