Are You Taking the Bus With Your Kids? Would You Rather Have A Low-Cost or Free Car Instead?

If you’ve ever had to take the public bus to get around town, you might have noticed how many single moms were on there with their kids. If you were on the same bus with me, you might have seen me with two kids, several grocery bags, and a prescription or two. A year or two into my more recent bus riding experience, I invested in a folding cart to make buying groceries easier and a camping backpack, so I could carry more stuff.

And you know what I noticed? I had a ton of people, but especially women that seemed to be single moms, asking where I bought both of them. That was because there were so many of us who couldn’t afford to buy or to repair our vehicles, so were on the bus. Yet another experience in my life where hindsight was 20/20. I would love to know then what I know now.  There are actually quite a few different charities that are able to provide inexpensive or free cars to deserving people.

Goodwill Industries and Wheels To Work

Goodwill Industries, in addition to the other services they provide and their retail stores, have their “Wheels To Work” Program in several states. Basically, this is a grant program that provides vehicles that are in good condition to deserving individuals. Although the requirements for this program may vary by area, there are a few standard conditions. The successful applicant should expect to:

  • Have steady employment for at least six months before receiving a vehicle
  • Continue employment for at least 12 months after receipt of the vehicle
  • Make a down payment and regular payments to pay the agreed upon amount in full
  • Have a valid referral from the office of Human or Social services
  • Have a valid license, with no serious driving infractions or drug charges
  • Not own any other vehicles


In an attempt to help individuals obtain and maintain employment, many churches have begun their own version of the Goodwill program. They attempt to help members of the community or their congregation maintain the independence that appears with transportation.

Each church will have their own expectations for these vehicles, but in general any vehicle that you receive will be in good condition. It is common for churches that provide this type of grant to also have a team of volunteers who repair donated vehicles, and if it ever comes up, you might be able to get maintenance and repair from the same volunteers.

You may have to call each church in the area, and to contact the social service agency in your area.

You might have to listen to other people for their experiences, because it is pretty rare for the churches that do this to advertise. These steps are good ideas for any charity that offers this type of service, because of the immense need for affordable or free transportation that is being experienced all over the country. It would be very easy for a smaller charity to be overwhelmed by thousands more applicants than they can actually serve, which would just slow down the process for everyone.

State Grants

As of 2009, several states, including Maryland and California, have funds available to help low income or TANF eligible individuals obtain vehicles. These individuals would be required to exhibit a need for these vehicles as well as the ability to benefit from it. Anyone applying for this service will need to have a valid driver’s license for that state, and needs to be able to be financially responsible for the vehicle.

The typical recipient of a vehicle may be asked to pay anywhere from two to six hundred dollars for their vehicle, with the balance being paid for by a grant. In some situations, you may be required to maintain more than the state’s minimum for your insurance. The low cost of a car is often paid back in three months or less, due to lower taxi costs.

Although there are many different companies that attempt to match needy drivers with inexpensive or free cars, there are many more people who could benefit from those cars. Therefore, you may very well have a long waiting list and you would probably do well to make as many phone calls as possible. Never be duped into paying a fee for applying, wait-listing, or anything else.

With patience, attention to deadlines, and as long as you are willing to adhere to the guidelines, there is every reason to believe that you will eventually be able to obtain a vehicle. Always make sure your applications are complete, and that you call back at regular intervals to check on the status of your application. You will be behind the wheel of your new car one day.