Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Clunkers for Charity

Remember when people used to donate their crappy cars to charity and take a tax write off?

Yeah, that was cool.

Cash for Clunkers (Thank goodness the government did not fall into the Krazy K spelling and commit the heresy of calling it Kash for Klunkers) has cut into charity's take of the crappy car market (Krappy Kar?). It's another example of how interconnected people and issues are. One things affects another, and unintended consequences can pop up all over the place.

Officially, Clunkers is the "Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS)," but if I wrote that, very few people would know what I meant. My gloss on the program is that it's a good one, at least from a demand/consumer perspective; the environmental returns may prove to be dubious, but at least it's something to goes directly to citizens.

I have an old car. It's a 1991 Honda Civic DX. It runs really well, but we have consolidated our car usage to the point where we are only using one, our 2005 Toyota Corolla. We don't qualify for the CARS program because our cars already get good gas mileage. Even my old Honda comes in at around 30 mph, and Clunkers have to get a combined EPA gas mileage rating is 18 mpg or below. Also, it has been off insurance for a number of months, though its registration and plates are current.

What am I going to do with it?

I'll probably donate it to charity. "Clunkers" has resulted in a decrease in charity cars, and I have my choice of charities in the Twin Cities area. As my car does not qualify, it's not really much of a choice, but I could sell it for significantly more than the average tax deduction of $500. Some charities and nonprofits say they've seen a decrease in the number of donated cars since the program was launched last month. That's not surprising, because the average tax deduction for most donated cars is about $500 and CARS pays $4,500.

Now I just have to decide: Twin Cities Public Television, Goodwill-Easter Seals, Minnesota AIDS Foundation, Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, The Courage Center, breast cancer, veterans, arthritis... it's a rather dizzying array of choices. I think I would like to choose something that is local and provides a direct service, but the idea of The March of Dimes is also alluring, as my son was born very premature, and the economic costs of prematurity are staggering: around 26 billion per year in the US alone.

My old-car-that-still-gets-good-gas-mileage is doing no one any good parked in our driveway, and though it's a form of passive charity, it is something I can do right now, like being a celebrity and auctioning off my kidney stone (no kidding), though much less gross.

No comments: