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Keep driving old car or donate it

This is a 95 Oldsmobile 98 Regency Elite. It sits on my parents’ property and is not in a garage, which I’ve been using as a vacation car for a few weeks a year. I know it is car abuse to let it sit out there in the elements, but it is a dry climate so it isn’t going to get rusty. It still runs and I just put a battery in it so it sounded and ran great. Do you drive an old car like this? The advantage of leaving it is always having this car available when I visit from overseas, and its ride, power, comfort, fuel economy, design and look are all superior to any rental car I can afford. The drawback is leaving it out in the elements where there are four distinct seasons, including snowy winters. It is also sometimes a little shaky going uphill at a certain frequency. Donate it to NPR or keep enjoying it on vacations…what do you think? Or maybe getting it at least some kind of car cover? The tires are new, new brakes, generally good condition except for the occasional stall like everyone with this vintage of Olds knows about. If it does happen to stall it restarts immediately. It has been a comfortable, useful automobile and I’m finding it hard to get rid of. At the moment I parked it as security next to a house that is not occupied and has no other vehicle beside it. But I was roughly planning to donate the car once the house sells.

It owes you nothing. Hang on to it till you must sell it. A dry climate is very forgiving.


I like donating vehicles I no longer use, and have done so with almost all of my cars back to the 1990s. it appears that you may not be a US citizen, but in case you are, there are a couple of things you should be aware of.

Donating to NPR or almost any other charity means that you can only deduct the sales price of the vehicle when they convert it to cash. The charity will send you a document telling you how much they got for it, and you can deduct that amount on your taxes.

If the charity does not sell the car but instead chooses to use it, you can deduct what you believe is the fair market value of the car. Another situation where this works is if the charity gives the car to a poor person that can’t afford a car. It still hasn’t been sold and you get to determine the fair market value.

If you prep it right, keeping it can be a good way to go. Do you use fuel stabilizer? If not, you should do so. I wouldn’t use a tent or car cover if the climate is really dry. When deciding, you need to add the cost of getting to the house from the airport. If you have family to transport you, that’s great. If you use a taxi, consider how that offsets the cost of a rental.


Considering it’s paid for and apparently in good shape, I’d keep it as a spare car.

You don’t say how often you would use it but it will have to have current registration and possibly liability insurance at least at the time for tag renewal. The tires could go flat or weather and that is another expense. Plus unused battery will be dead most likely when you return. I just don’t see the logic in keeping it.

Yeah I had a 95 Olds taking up garage space. For the past five years it would get maybe 15 miles a year. I didn’t know what to do with it and changed oil once a year. When I wanted the garage space I’d back it out and park it outside. Then the last time, I went to start it and the fuel pump was not coming on. I got $100 for it when the junk yard came to get it. I’ve now pretty much filled the garage space.

If you decide to keep it, the car cover idea is a good one. If you can park it on pavement or cement that drains well after a rain, rather than on bare ground, that’s helpful in keeping it preserved too.

Modern cars, the battery will be out of charge in a month or two. Older cars with less electronics may last longer, may not. But at some point the battery will be dead. I gather you have no way to plug in a charger. Perhaps a solar charger would work. But that is an invite for someone to break in and steal it, depends on the neighborhood.

So take battery problems into your decision…

If it’s working for you, then keep doing it.

There is nothing wrong with storing a car until you need it, as long as you can afford to maintain and insure it without creating any financial hardship. As an avid motorcyclist, I drive my car as little as possible, so I bought the following items to help keep my car ready for when I need it:

-A solar smart trickle charger - This one is large enough to keep my small Honda Civic battery charged, and by buying a USB adapter, I can use it to charge my cell phone when I am without electricity after a hurricane or tropical storm:

I put mine on my dashboard, so it’s harder to steal, and run a wire out the passenger door seal (on a low point so water doesn’t get in) to the battery when I connect it.

-Tire shine - usually found in the Armor All brand, but any brand will do. I use it to prevent dry rot. In your case, though, you might want to use both tire shine and tire covers since your car sits for longer periods than mine does.

-One last thing I recommend is using fuel stabilizer. If you can find it, I also recommend using ethanol-free fuel. I don’t do these things with my car because my car almost never sits for more than a few weeks without getting fresh fuel, but I do use ethanol-free fuel in my motorcycles, because one is an older motorcycle, and the other one often sits for long periods.

…and that only applies if you itemize your deductions. If you don’t have enough deductions to itemize them, you don’t get to deduct any more than the standard deduction, which you would have gotten without donating anything.

Donating a car is a nice thing to do, but if you’re expecting a financial benefit, you might be better off selling it.

I agree that selling is a better way to make money than a tax deduction. I never gave away a vehicle to make money. The tax deduction was a nice side benefit. My point is that most auto donations don’t provide nearly the fair market value the donator thinks they will.