Does Having a Vehicle Count Against You When Applying for Food Stamps?

Does Having a Vehicle Count Against You When Applying for Food Stamps?
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A typical American household has at least one car, and 64 percent of adults drive daily. At the same time, about 42 million people receive Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, or food stamps.

It’s safe to assume that some of the people who own cars will claim SNAP benefits at some point. Therefore, understanding whether your car is considered a resource or not, and to what extent it is, may determine your eligibility for food stamps in your state. That makes it essential for you to understand the SNAP vehicle rules that exist at both the federal and state level. Otherwise, they could work against you during the application process.

Read More​: Pros & Cons of Food Stamps

General Eligibility Criteria for Food Stamps

To understand your state’s SNAP rules, it would be best to first learn about the general eligibility criteria for food stamps and what the resources are. Below are the basic federal requirements for SNAP.

  • Your household’s income before deductions must be at 130 percent ​or below of the federal poverty level.
  • Your countable resources such as bank savings or cash must not exceed​ $2,500. However, the limit increases to ​$3,750​ if at least one household member is 60 or older or has a disability. And retirement account funds, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits usually don’t count toward this resource limit. Also, your home and lot are not counted against you.
  • In most states and U.S. territories other than Alaska and Hawaii for households of between one and eight people, you can earn a gross monthly income ranging from ​$1,396 to $4,839​ and still qualify for SNAP. For more people beyond the eight-person limit, your household can earn an additional gross income of ​$492​ per each member and still qualify for food stamps.

SNAP Vehicle Rules

While vehicles may be counted as a resource, they are not considered in the same way as bank savings or cash. In addition, each state determines the extent to which your vehicle is counted as a resource. But there are general federal SNAP guidelines worth considering.

Below are some of the rules you should remember.

  • A licensed vehicle is not counted as a resource if you live in it, earn a living with it, use it to transport a household member with a disability and it is required to transport most of your household’s water or fuel. Also, it does not count as a resource if you travel long distances for work with it or it helps you produce an income equal to its fair market value.
  • If the sale value of your licensed vehicle would be less than ​$1,500​, it will not be considered a resource when you apply for food stamps.
  • A non-excluded licensed vehicle can only be counted as a resource if it has a value of over ​$4,650​.
  • Licensed vehicles are also subject to an equity test. If the equity value is more than the fair market value, and both are worth over ​$4,650​, the greater value is considered as a resource. However, one car per household adult is excluded from this test. So are vehicles used by children under 18 years to go to school, training, work or job hunts.

State-Based SNAP Vehicle Rules

While federal guidelines concerning vehicles exist, states get the right to determine to implement them fully, partially or not at all. Therefore, it is essential that you learn what your state’s rules say concerning your vehicle and whether it counts against you when applying for food stamps.

Below are some examples.

  • Currently, ​33 states​ exclude the value of all vehicles from your resource count when you apply for food stamps. But some of those states use the resource criteria for TANF, which is less stringent. Alabama is an excellent example of this. Other states in this category include the District of Columbia, Hawaii and Kansas, among others.
  • Seven states​ exclude the value of one vehicle per adult and apply the federal guidelines to the remainder of the cars in your home during SNAP applications. Arizona is an excellent example of states in this category.
  • Other states set their own vehicle limits on one or more vehicles and apply federal guidelines to other cars in the household beyond their local resource limits. For example, Texas sets a ​$15,000​ fair market value limit on one car. Federal rules apply to other vehicles and their excess value counts toward the state’s ​$5,000​ resource limit. On the other hand, in Wyoming, if a household consists of a married couple, two of their vehicles can be excluded, provided their combined fair market value is ​$12,000​ or less.
  • Alaska excludes one vehicle based on its use. If you use it for transportation to meet your basic needs, it does not count against you. However, the rest of your vehicles are subject to federal SNAP guidelines.

Because different SNAP vehicle rules exist in each state, it would be wise to learn the specifics as they apply to your household first. That way, your food stamp application will have a higher chance of getting approval even when you own a vehicle.