By cutting out middlemen, the Kars4Kids charity makes donating your car, RV, boat, personal watercraft, motorcycle—just about any vehicle—fast, easy, and completely free. All you have to do is take two minutes to fill out an online form or call direct, and your vehicle can be picked up within 24 hours, regardless of the state you live in, or the state of your car.
But Kars4Kids isn’t all about cars; they can also accept donations of cash, real estate, life insurance, and more.
Regardless of how you do it, by donating to Kars4Kids, not only will you help “build a complete child,” but you’ll also save money on your taxes and receive a voucher for a two-night, three-day hotel stay at 50 locations across the US. And all of it happens without paperwork, headaches, or cost to you.
Taken together, this is why Kars4Kids is one of the largest car donations charities, with 400,000+ donors to date.
There’s little doubt that charities like Kars4Kids do meaningful work and make a difference in thousands of children’s’ lives. But if you have a vehicle you need to donate, is Kars4Kids necessarily your best option? In this review, we’ll help answer some of your most important questions.
To begin, we’ll take a closer look at the charity.
Just Who Is Kars4Kids, Anyway?
Based out of Lakewood, NJ, Kars4Kids is non-profit charity organization “dedicated to addressing the educational, material, emotional and spiritual needs of Jewish children and their families” since 1995. In a nutshell, Kars4Kids’ network of 1,650+ nationwide mentors and volunteers help children succeed in life by fostering positive experiences in a child’s school, friends, community, and family.
In conjunction with their sister charity, Oorah (more about them in a moment), Kars4Kids accomplishes this in the following ways:
- Youth Development – Summer meal programs, 40+ ChillZone locations, summer camp, extracurricular programs and youth groups, and volunteer leadership development.
- Educational Services – School placement and tuition assistance and afterschool learning.
- Community & Family Outreach – Family holiday retreats, charity distributions, cultural activities and community outreach, small grant initiatives, and public service campaigns.
In the next section, we’ll learn how Kars4Kids takes donations.
The Kars4Kids Donating Process
Beginning the Kars4Kids donation process happens one of two ways:
- Using their online form. Simply enter the vehicle type, year, make, model, and mileage, and indicate if it’s running and if you have the title. After clicking the Donate Now button, you’ll need to enter your name and contact info.
- Calling 877-527-7454.
Whether your vehicle is running or not, after speaking with Kars4Kids, they’ll arrange to have a local, professionally licensed, bonded, and insured towing company contact you within a few business hours. From there, your vehicle will likely be picked up within 24-48 hours thereafter (or faster, if necessary), regardless of the state you live in.
All of this occurs without any cost or hassle to you, and you don’t even have to be home during pickup. Just remove any personal belongings and leave the key and title under the dashboard, and you’re good to go.
The towing company will provide you with a temporary receipt, which will include you car’s information, along with the charity’s name and phone number. Within two weeks, you’ll also receive your tax-deductible receipt and hotel voucher.
Speaking of which, let’s briefly talk about Kars4Kids vacation voucher next.
What Does Your Kars4Kids Voucher Provide?
This involves 50 different locations throughout the US (According to the charity, “The hotel destinations offered in this program are of similar quality to the Choice Hotels brand and La Quintas.”), although this doesn’t include taxes, airfare, or other transportation, and there are some other conditions. You’ll also have to send in a $50 refundable deposit within 30 days.
Now that we’ve covered all the basics about Kars4Kids, let’s see how it stacks up against other similar car donating charities.
Online Feedback For Kars4Kids
In this section, we’re going to look at Kars4Kids from two different perspectives: national charity watchdog groups and individuals who donated to the charity.
Professional Feedback for Kars4Kids
Whenever you’re researching a charity you’re thinking about donating time or money to, it’s always a good idea to check out industry websites that rank charities based on key factors like financial performance (how much of each dollar goes to children, for example), accountability and transparency, and more.
According to their 2014 filing, Kars4Kids brought in about $34.7 million, with about $3.9 million remaining after expenses.
With this in mind, Charity Navigator gave Kars4Kids an overall rating of 2 stars, with just 1 star for financial (about $0.47 of every dollar actually goes to the charity’s programs, while $0.48 goes toward raising more money), but 5 stars for accountability and transparency.
Speaking of which, CharityWatch.com wrote a fairly detailed article about Kars4Kids (and their related charities, JOY and Oorah) in 2010, claiming that JOY spent $118 in advertising costs for each car donated, although each vehicle only sold for an average of $400.
CharityWatch also noted that JOY has run into some past issues with state regulators, leading to fines totaling $65K. In PA and OR, legal settlements with the charity required “JOY and Oorah to be more up front with their Kars4Kids advertising,” specifically “that the physical and spiritual support and private religious education offered by Oorah are intended to persuade secular Jewish families to take on a more Orthodox Jewish lifestyle.” In other words, their “programs benefit a particular group of children.”
In addition, the article mentions that the free hotel vouchers were basically just tickets to timeshare presentations. Did we find any of the charity’s clients saying the same thing?
Feedback From Kars4Kids Clients
On the other hand, Kars4Kids had a 99% approval rating on Feefo.com, where most clients claimed the process was fast and easy. Most complaints (what few there were) seemed to reference delays obtaining paperwork post-donation.
Kars4Kids also had a 3.5-star review on Yelp, based on 13 individual reviews. Again, most compliments referenced the easy process, while most complaints reference processing/paperwork problems.
Finally, there were dozens of Kars4Kids complaints on ComplaintsBoard, which referenced everything from who the charity’s money benefits to problems receiving paperwork.
Should You Donate Your Car To Kars4Kids?
There are probably dozens (if not hundreds) of different personal factors that might go into choosing one charity over another, such as ease of doing business, recommendations from friends or family, the charity’s overall mission, financials, and much more. And each one of these factors will weight differently for all of us.
In general though, CharityWatch’s Tips for Donating a Car to Charity recommends you look for an organization that minimizes the use of middlemen, which is exactly what Kars4Kids claims to do. However, to maximize your deduction, they recommend donating it to a charity that uses the vehicle in their operations or who donates it directly to an individual, which is not something Kars4Kids does. Otherwise, you might get less than fair market value.
To make sure you get the most return on your gift (again, as we talked about at the beginning, assuming this is your ultimate goal), you might want to search online for other car donation organizations around the country, which support a variety of causes. For more information, you can also check out the IRS’ Donor’s Guide to Vehicle Donation, as well as Kars4Kids’ tax filing tips.