Where Can Low-Income People Find Help with Car Repair?

When we think about necessities, our minds go to water, food, and shelter. And while these are the basics needed for survival, you also need other resources to get by in our society today. One of the most necessary and hardest for families in need to manage is a reliable vehicle.

When disaster strikes, you may not be able to afford the repairs needed to keep your car on the road. From the government to local charities, there are several places where you can get your car repaired for cheap or free. Read on to discover organizations that help with car repair for low-income people.


The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program is a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As the name suggests, TANF is not meant to be a long-term source of support for families in need. Instead, it is designed to help families get back on their feet after a crisis. 

TANF benefits vary by state, but some states offer resources that can help you cover car repair costs. This is not a direct benefit, but the fine print of the TANF program specifies that the payments it provides are designed to keep families self-sufficient. This includes performing necessary repairs on a car that you need to commute to your job.


Depending on the nature of the repairs you need to get done, the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state may help you to cover the costs. If you get your car inspected each year, you may find that it failed its emissions test. Getting this issue resolved could be more expensive than you can afford, and you may not legally be allowed to drive your car until you get the emissions addressed.

The DMV in some states offers emissions-related vehicle repair assistance. You may be able to get money to cover maintenance work to fix emissions problems, or your state may offer an incentive to help you get a more fuel-efficient car. California and Texas both offer these programs, so check with your local DMV about what assistance you could get. 

Modest Needs

Modest Needs is an organization working to help people through crisis times and cover government assistance programs’ gaps. Many people in need do not qualify for these assistance programs, and one or two disasters, including unexpected car repairs, could put them in crisis. Modest Needs helps these people pay for these disasters and gives them the financial resources they need to get back on their feet. 

To qualify for a Modest Needs grant, you’ll need to meet a few criteria. At least one adult in your household must be documented to be employed at the time you apply. Your household’s largest income source must be from employment, child support payments, veteran benefits, or retirement income.

Semper Fi Fund

If you’re a veteran, your car repairs may not be limited to standard maintenance or addressing problems. If your service left you with a disability, you might need a car modified to meet your needs. But these repairs don’t come cheap, and your disability may make it hard for you to work a job that allows you to afford that work.

The Semper Fi Fund is dedicated to ensuring veterans have the transportation they need, from wheelchairs and snow removal equipment to modified cars. They can help you pay for the repairs you need to make your car work for you. They can also provide you with gas vouchers to make your transportation costs easier to manage.

Free Charity Cars 

Free Charity Cars claims to be America’s number-one car donation and distribution charity. And it is true that in the last year alone, they donated $6.4 million in vehicles to families in need, including veterans. The group accepts donated cars and then redistributes them to individuals and families in need.

Free Charity Cars works to match their applicants with a car that will meet their specific needs. All applications are private, which helps to protect the dignity and safety of people applying for cars. While their primary focus is giving away cars, they may also help you to afford car repairs in some specific circumstances. 

The United Methodist Church

In many areas, the United Methodist Church can help you repair your car by providing the needed labor voluntarily or covering repair expenses. The church recognizes how critical a working car can be for a family’s ongoing survival and independence. Some churches consider it part of their charitable mission to help families in need afford this expense.

If you plan to use this type of aid, be sure to talk to your local United Methodist church first. Smaller churches may not be able to afford this ministry or may focus their efforts on other areas. Some churches may also require you to be a member to get access to this aid. 

Vehicle Recalls 

When a problem comes up with your car, one of the first things you should do is check if your car has any recalls. If it does, you can take it to a dealership and have the problem fixed for free. Even if the recall isn’t directly related to your problem, it’s a good idea to do this to extend your car’s life.

Unfortunately, some factors may make your car ineligible for recall repairs. For instance, if your car was in a flood zone during a natural disaster, you may not be able to have the recall work done. Be sure to check with your mechanic about the recall status before work begins to avoid a charge you weren’t expecting.

Local Charities

A variety of local charities spread across the country can help you afford car repair costs. If you live near Vancouver, WA, The Carpenter’s Garage provides affordable car repairs. In Pennsylvania, Workforce will give you up to $1,000 to spend on repairing a car or $8,000 to buy a new one.

In Minnesota, The Lift Garage helps low-income residents get car repairs done at a price they can afford. In Colorado, Good Neighbor Garage provides much the same service as does Wheels from the Heart in Florida. If you live in Maryland, look into Vehicles for a Change, and in Michigan, Road Ready Repairs can get you back in gear. 

If you’re not near any of these, search for “affordable car repair near me” to see what services are available in your area.

Programs to Get a Cheap Car

Before you start worrying about how you’ll afford to repair a car, you first have to worry about how you’ll afford to buy a car in the first place. Luckily, several programs work to provide low-income families with the aid they need to get a car. Working Cars for Working Families is one of the biggest, fighting for transparent policy in the car sales industry and providing affordable cars to low-income families.

The Salvation Army and Goodwill also auction off cars for very affordable prices. Goodwill even donates some cars to applicants who meet their qualifications. And some of the programs we’ve mentioned here, including Free Charity Cars, work to get affordable cars to people in need.

Other Programs to Free Up Cash

Several other assistance programs can help you afford a car repair, even if they don’t provide direct cash assistance. Programs like SNAP and WIC can help families afford food and other necessities. Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army can help you get free or affordable housing when you need it.

HUD and Section 8 can also help you to cover housing costs, freeing up money to spend repairing your car. Programs like Medicaid can reduce some of your medical expenses. You may also be able to get help covering necessary expenses, including school supplies, from local charities in your area.

Get Help with Car Repair for Low-Income People

If you’re already struggling to make ends meet, your car breaking down could be the final straw for your finances. Luckily, the organizations we’ve discussed help with car repair for low-income people, as well as providing other support services. You may even qualify to get a free car through some of these charities, and others can help reduce some of your other living expenses to free up money for the needed repairs.

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