It’s true: FREE cars for veterans are available from Progressive Insurance each November! We’ll show you how to create a great application to win one of these cars.
Every once in a while, I get an INCREDIBLE tip in my email. This was definitely one of those. It came from a concerned VA representative who knows just how awful my current vehicle is. She’s a VA employee and sent me the basic information and an application for one of these free cars for veterans. I turned it in ASAP – and then I came right here to tell you all about it!
I was tempted to keep this information to myself (fewer applicants = better odds of winning, right?) but I couldn’t do that. This is just too good and I know there many of you who are in a similar situation. Besides, Progressive typically gives away over 100 free cars for veterans every year, so there’s enough to share!
So without further ado… Here’s everything I know about the Progressive Keys to Progress vehicle giveaway.
What is the Keys to Progress Vehicle Giveaway?
The Keys to Progress® Vehicle Giveaway event is an annual event sponsored by Progressive Insurance and their partners. The event began in 2013 when they gave away 59 cars for veterans in one day. In the last 5 years, they’ve given away more than 500 cars for veterans!
The cars aren’t brand new. They have refurbished vehicles that have been gathered and fixed through a cooperative partnership between Progressive Insurance, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the National Auto Body Council (NABC), national salvage companies, network auto-body shops and 1-800-Charity-Cars.
Each year, the cars are given away at various Progressive Service Centers around the US. They have 60 of these locations! In 2017, they also hosted vehicle giveaway events in the metro locations of New York City, Colorado Springs, CO; Des Moines, IA; Louisville, KY; Lubbock, TX; FT Meyers, FL; Fresno, CA.
The event always takes place on in November, near Veteran’s Day. I have reached out to Progressive for more information about exact dates and times, but it varies each year. For example, the 2017 event was hosted on Thursday, November 9th. Most locations held the giveaway between 11:30 am and 1:30 pm.
Who qualifies for one of these FREE cars for veterans?
The cars are only intended for veterans who are experiencing tough life circumstances, such as “difficult personal and family health needs, excessive rent burdens, unemployment and even homelessness.”
To qualify for this program, you must meet the following criteria:
- Be a veteran. You will need to be able to provide a DD214.
- Have a valid driver’s license.
- Have a clean driving record with no major infractions within the last 7 years.
- Live in or near the community where the giveaway is being hosted.
- Be able to pass a background check.
- Meet certain income limits. You can click here to see what the income limits are for your specific area. You may be asked to submit last year’s income taxes.
- Not own a vehicle OR you must be able to show a hardship with your current vehicle.
If you receive a car through this program, you will also need to be able to pay for the following:
- Title transfer fees
- All applicable sales tax and fees
- Insurance on the vehicle
- Vehicle maintenance
How do I apply to get a FREE car?!
Applying is easier than you think!
Step One: Prepare a statement about why you need the car.
It’s easier if you prepare your own statement first. Just use your favorite word processor (I favor Google Docs) and create your statement about why you need to win a vehicle. We have some advice on how to write a winning statement below, so be sure to check it out!
Step Two: Contact a VSO because you need a nonprofit representative.
You will need a nonprofit to submit your application on your behalf.
If you’ve ever filed a VA claim, it’s likely you already know a veterans representative who can help you submit this form. However, if you are unfamiliar with such a nonprofit, you can always click here to find your local Veteran Service Organization. You can also ask someone at the VA to submit it on your behalf.
Ironically, many VSO organizations are not familiar with the Keys to Progress giveaway. You may need to direct them to visit this website for more information.
Ultimately, your nonprofit representative will need to email [email protected] for an application. You will need to fill out the application and return it with your statement.
Step Three: Fill out the application.
Fill out the application. Your VSO representative will probably assist you with this step.
Step Four: Wait to be notified.
This is the hard part! Applications are reviewed beginning in May of each program year, but vehicles are awarded during the week surrounding Veteran’s Day.
Here are some tips for creating the perfect application!
On September 25, 2017, I was contacted by a representative from the Keys to Progress vehicle office. They had reviewed my application and she said they really, really, really wanted to give my family a free car… but they only had vehicles with five seats and my family required seven seats.
The representative asked if there was any way we could make a five-seat vehicle work but there really wasn’t. Since this was a needs-based giveaway, we refused to accept the vehicle because we knew someone else needed a five-seat vehicle more than we did.
However, that does mean that I know how to create a winning application! Since I was able to buy a vehicle a few months later, I’m definitely not going to be entering the giveaway again… and I’d love to share my tips with you so that you have better chances of winning!
There are a few things that really helped set my application apart from the rest.
1. Tell a story to connect with the reviewer.
It is important to realize that the reviewers are sifting through hundreds, even thousands, of very good, very compelling applications. There are tens of thousands of good, deserving families who are vying for one of these free cars for veterans. Create a compelling application by inviting the reviewer into your life for a moment. Tell them a story so they get to know you and your circumstances.
Don’t just scrawl “I need it for work” or “I’m having a hard time.” Those statements mean different things to different people. Help the reader connect with your need as much as possible by answering these questions in your statement:
- What brought you to this point? Why don’t you have a reliable vehicle now?
- What is your daily life like? How do you function without a reliable vehicle?
- How would one of these free cars for veterans change your life? What do you see in your future if you win?
2. Add pictures for maximum visual impact.
When I completed my application, I assumed that most people would just write their explanation in the lines provided in the application. However, the application does state that “you may also send this in your own word processor document or email program,” so I took this opportunity to design my statement in Google Docs!
Illustrate the story you crafted in Step One with pictures. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? I included several photos in my application, including family photos, vehicle photos and a screenshot of our $2,000+ power bill. Sometimes, just putting a face to your name can work in your favor when you’re completing an application like this.
3. Don’t be ashamed to explain your case… but BE HONEST.
Sometimes, we have a natural tendency to either minimize the severity of our situation or overlook details that are pertinent to your situation. Don’t be ashamed to tell that reviewer exactly what landed you in this situation and exactly why you need the vehicle. Lay it all out there. If you skip parts, you may lose the car to someone who states their case better.
This does NOT mean that you should whine or beg at any point in your application! Reviewers don’t want to read sob stories but they do want to see authenticity. Be genuine, sincere and real. Don’t fake it.
I’m sure there are at least a handful of people who lie on these applications. If possible, you can always distinguish yourself from the deceptive crowd by including screenshots to verify what you’re saying. That’s why I included a screenshot of our insanely high power bill in my application!
Do not, under any circumstances, SKIP the statement!
Even if you can’t figure out how to insert photos or you don’t want to spend the time writing a lengthy statement, do NOT submit your application without one. The statement is literally the only thing the reviewers have to consider when deciding who wins a free car (and who does not). In my opinion, it’s not worth submitting an application at all if you skip the statement.