Will You Get More Money by Donating Your Old Car to Charity or by Recycling the Precious Metals It Contains?

If you have ever donated a car to a charity, you know the routine. You call to schedule a time when your car will be picked up. A flatbed truck arrives, the driver writes out a receipt, and your old car gets hauled away. A little while later, you get a receipt from the charity that took your car. That receipt should provide a value for the car you donated, which should be what the charity sold the car for.

It could work this way. Let’s say you donate a 2000 Toyota Camry to the Lung Association. It is in fair condition, with 200,000 miles on the odometer. If you look at Kelly Blue Book values online, you will find that it is worth about $500.00. And because the Lung Association sells the car for that exact amount, you get a receipt from the Association that says you donated $500.00. So if you are in the 15% tax bracket and you deduct that $500.00 from your taxes, you stand to recoup maybe $75.00 at most. The exact amount you get will depend on how much income you declare and other factors. But again, let’s say you will get an extra $75.00 in your tax refund, just because you donated that car.

Of course, charitable donations don’t always work as promised. I once donated a 1973 VW Karmann Ghia to a charity and was told that I would get a receipt for whatever price it sold for at a used car auction, which the charity’s representative on the phone told me would be, “a lot of money because it’s a classic car.” After I had waited for months to get a receipt of any kind, I finally called the charity and was told I could only get a receipt for a $500.00 donation, “the maximum the charity will allow.” The story had changed, probably because the charity was using another company to manage car donations, but I had to accept the fact that I hadn’t gotten the kind of deduction I had been promised.

Is It Better to Recycle the Precious Metals that Your Old Car Contains?

The first thing to consider is, does the car you are scrapping contain any precious metals that are worth recycling? My old Karmann Ghia didn’t. It didn’t have an onboard computer, antilock brakes, or even a computer to monitor its fuel injection system. (It had a carburetor.) Because it was manufactured before 1975, it didn’t have a catalytic convertor that contained platinum or other precious metals. About the only place where that car might have been carrying any precious metal would have been in its radio, where an insignificant quantity of gold might have been hiding.

But what about that 2000 Toyota Camry? Compared to the Karmann Ghia, it must have contained a lot of gold and platinum, right? Well, you could say that. But the fact remains that the platinum in the Toyota’s catalytic converter was worth only one or two dollars and the gold in its radio, onboard computers, and other electronic components was worth only a dollar or two more. So while it was worth a lot more than the Karmann Ghia, we are talking about pennies.

Let’s Compare and Learn

When you juggle and balance all those considerations, you have to come to an unfortunate conclusion . . .

You won’t make much money by donating one car or extracting the precious metals it contains

Okay, that’s the lesson to learn. However, there is one more consideration to keep in mind, which is that even though any one car doesn’t contain more than a few dollars’ worth of precious metals . . . a lot of cars contain a lot of gold, silver and platinum.

So if you can get your hands on the printed circuit boards and catalytic convertors from 500 or more scrapped vehicles, you have found a quantity of precious metal that is worth recycling.

Where can you find that many old components? The obvious answer is, in junkyards. If you can negotiate to buy catalytic convertors and electronics from one of them, you could be on your way to starting a profitable scrap metal recycling business of your own.

As those precious metals pile up, call Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344 to learn more.

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