Car donations stall to program that helps Vermonters in need get a reliable ride

Published: Sep. 7, 2022 at 3:59 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Driving a car is expensive nowadays, from high sticker prices on vehicles to high gas prices at the pumps. Inflation is impacting drivers in more ways than one.

That has many Vermonters relying on organizations like the Good News Garage to find them a reliable ride.

Prices for both new and used cars are still driving up with no sign of when that might reverse. That’s left Vermonters like Tiffaney Allen, of Newport, broken down.

“Then I lost my job because of transportation,” she said.

Allen is a personal care assistant in the Northeast Kingdom and relies on her car for work as she drives all over the state.

With three kids, she doesn’t have much wiggle room to finance a new car.

“It’s so expensive and I’m a single mom,” she said.

But not long after losing her job, Allen got a call that she’d been selected to get a car through Vermont’s Reach Up program and the Good News Garage.

“It was a miracle honestly,” she said.

Allen says the 2013 Subaru Impreza she got has been a game-changer.

“I got my job back and I’m able to travel for work and get my kids to where they need to go and they can play sports again,” she said. “It’s amazing.”

Allen is one of 50 or so people in the state who have been given a car through the Good News Garage so far this year.

The program seeks to help low-income families secure transportation so they can get where they need to go.

“Potentially they’ve moved someplace, they’re too far away from their job, there’s no public transportation, so they’re awarded a vehicle in order to keep their job in place,” explained Wanda Robar, the program manager for the Good News Garage.

Robar says they get dozens of inquiries every day and that need is at an all-time high.

The price for a new car today compared to 2012 is up by about $15,000 per average transaction price according to a study by Cox Automotive.

The average price for a new car now is about $48,000.

“Who could finance one previously, now they’re out of sync in order to be able to do that,” Robar said.

At the same time, car donations to the Good News Garage are way down as trade-in prices go up.

“It’s harder for people to actually give us a car that they would have given us two or three years ago. They can’t because there are no cars on the lot,” Robar said.

As a result, the Good News Garage is having a harder time helping people out without the inventory to do so.

And for people like Allen, the need for a car is higher than ever.

“I can only imagine people in even worse situations that it would just be completely life-changing,” Allen said.

The Good News Garage doesn’t select who receives a car, that’s up to Reach Up.

But the Good News Garage is in charge of fixing them up and giving them out, and they need inventory to do that. They say they always need donations. The car doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be fixable and to eventually be able to pass state inspection. Click here for more information.