Selling and Donating Cars


Last March, ten months ago, I found exactly the car that I was looking for – A red Subaru Forester (see the post A New Car). I bought it the day after it magically appeared on the dealer’s lot close to my new town home (although I had NOT purchased the house yet). It has been the perfect car to meet my needs.

At the time that I bought the Subaru, it made me the proud owner of FOUR cars…the one that I now drive, my daughter’s ancient Mazda Protégé, the little red Mazda 6 that had been my husband’s 60th birthday present to himself, and a vintage Toyota Previa van.

In that ten month period, I had disposed of the Previa by donating it to a local charity. They provided a letter stating that they were able to use it in their exempt purpose, even inviting me to the blessing ceremony, where the keys were handed over to the new owner. The Internal Revenue Service has very specific rules on the deductibility of donated vehicles (See IRS Notice 2005-44). It explains that if the charity resells the vehicle, the donor’s deduction is limited to the actual sales price of the vehicle when it is sold by the charity. However, the donor may claim a deduction of the vehicle’s fair market value if the charity makes a “significant intervening use of the vehicle, such as using it to deliver meals on wheels”.  The difference in the deduction is between $250 or $2000.

AND – on Friday, my brother was able to sell the Mazda 6 to CarMax. One of the great gifts I have received in the last ten months is a series of meetings with two professionals. One is a CPA who has been a friend and colleague for many years.  The second is a Wealth Planner whose clientele include a significant number of widows. Even with my background in finance, I do not know how I could have managed the financial challenges without their continuing sound advice. At our last meeting, I was bemoaning the fact that I had not been able to find a buyer for the Mazda 6.  Both suggested taking the car to Car Max (they had both done that in the past).  I had not even considered that option, thinking that because they were going to resell the car, the price that they offered would be very low.

HERE ARE THE FACTS related to my Mazda 6.  When I purchased the new Subaru, they offered me only $4500 to trade in the Mazda.  Last week at CarMax, I was offered $8000 (and that was ten months later!) So…DO NOT automatically trade in an older car when purchasing a new one! Make sure you at least get a quote from CarMax! They made an offer that was good for seven days.  My brother was selling the car for me. It provided enough time for me to sign the title and send it overnight it to him in another city. Now, strangely enough, when he presented the notarized title, they demanded a Power of Attorney as well (which I also sent by FedEx).  We have an excellent Credit Union in town where I keep my more liquid funds.  I had walked in the first day with the title, and they notarized it for no fee.  The SECOND time I went in, the attorney I had spoken with the day before said, “They don’t need the Power of Attorney!” I just smiled at him and asked him to please provide the document, which he did, again for no fee.  One thing that I have learned over the last ten months is that it is much simpler to provide information which people request than try to convince them that they really don’t need it!

I currently own only TWO cars, instead of FOUR.

Now, if I could just reduce the number of houses from two to one I would be in great shape!

A New Car


I drove my husband’s little red Mazda 6 (I called it the Guy Car) for three months, including a couple of “road trips,” before coming to the conclusion that I really did need a car that I could get out of without moving the seat back (my short legs could only operate the clutch if the seat was pulled up as far as possible – and then I couldn’t get out of the car until I moved it back).

We had toyed with the idea of a new(er) car as soon we paid off his little sportster (in March). My 10-year-old van would stay in the family as the Football Game Transport Vehicle which would carry all the tailgate materials: the tent, the table, the chairs, food, coolers, guys….

Now it was time to revisit the car decision.  My two sisters own houses in the mountains, and I am currently in the flatlands (about five hours away), so there is a good chance that I will be on the road in some inclement weather (including snow). Because of some good family experiences with the line, I decided to look at Subaru’s. While visiting the highlands this weekend, we decided to just go look at the local Subaru dealer to define options. Of course, they had just gotten a load of cars in the night before – with only four Foresters (the size with extra luggage space). I had already looked online at used Foresters, and realized that the cars held their value very well (there was little discount on a used car). And, of course, the model that I wanted with the accessories I wanted in the COLOR I wanted (RED) just happened to be one of the four Foresters that had arrived the night before. The dealer had sold ten cars the day before. With the extended warranty, most of my maintenance would be included at the Subaru Dealer ten minutes from my house.  I decided to buy a new car.

I have never been the primary driver of a new car before.  What an interesting experience! Especially with the bells and whistles that came with the Subaru (including blue tooth which I COULD NOT get to record names in the directory after the first one…but I  will continue to read the 500-page instruction manual that came with the car and work it out).

And my dealer tag fell off in the rain half the way home [I loved the traction of the all-wheel drive], and my son (a high school teacher) and I had a great lunch-time craft project to make a new temporary tag to get me home.

Life is never dull.



Changing Owners on Car Titles


My little family had been accumulating cars. My husband’s sporty Mazda (6 years old) my daughter’s Mazda (10 years old) and my Toyota van (15 years old). They were all in my husband’s name, as was the insurance, of course.

It was time to get the titles changed to my name. I am the Executor of my husband’s will. To make the change I took the three “old” titles, along with a Letter of Testamentary to the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

A Letter of Testamentary, sometimes called a “Letter of Administration” or “Letter of Representation,” is a document granted by a local court. The document simply states that you are the legal executor for a particular estate and that you have the ability to act as such. Procuring these documents was one of the things that my lawyer agreed to do, and I considered it a good investment. I have several original letters, and have so far needed them at the bank, picking up my husband’s last paycheck, and now at the DMV. My lawyer provided ten originals. Generally, a Letter of Testamentary and a legally binding death certificate are the two documents you’ll need to do real estate transactions, banking, and asset distribution as the executor of the estate.

First, I went to the DMV closest to my house ( ten minutes away), waited in line about fifteen minutes, and was told that they did not do title work there, but rather at another DMV about fifteen minutes away (thank goodness it was that close!)

So, at the second DMV, I walked right in (there was no line), and started the process.  First I had to “sell” the cars as the executer of the will, then I had to buy them back as myself. For three cars.  It took about 30 minutes and $240. The person helping me was very efficient! Unfortunately, by the time I was the proud owner of the three cars, there were about ten people waiting in line.

But – another item is checked off my list.

The Cars


The letter came Saturday afternoon about 4:00 from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV):

“DMV has received the fees submitted for the issuance of a plate and/or sticker for the vehicle listed above.  However, our records indicate that this vehicle has not been inspected within 90 days of the plate expiration as required…this prohibits the vehicle from being registered until the vehicle has been inspected.

OK – so – Monday morning is inspection time!

Bright and early Monday morning I called our excellent car maintenance shop and ask if I could come in for an “emergency” inspection.  No problem.

Ah, but not so fast!  I forgot to take the letter with me, and when the mechanic entered the information in the DMV system, it said that the car’s inspection was valid for another year.

Not long after my solo life adventure began, I took one of my three cars to this shop (which we had been using for many years) and let them know that this was the one area of our marriage that my husband had managed completely by himself.  I did not have to track on any maintenance issues at all.  My husband did everything from tires to oil changes. Therefore, I had NO IDEA what the car needed (well, somewhere in my deepest darkest memories I remember my dad telling me to get oil changes every 3000 miles).

When one of the two female owners told me this, she also asked, “Is it possible that the letter is for the other Mazda?” Ah, yes, my daughter’s (much) older car – not my husband’s little red sportster. Such insights are one of the many advantages in taking ALL of your cars to the same mechanic all of the time…even for oil changes…which I had already decided to do earlier.  All the records in one place, someone checking for routine needs on a regular basis.

So…..I get to go back this afternoon with the other Mazda (and the letter) and see if I can become “legal” again.