Why Is It Hard To Claim Abandoned Vehicles?

  • 4 min read

Did you ever wonder why it’s so hard to get a title for an abandoned vehicle or to even file for an abandoned vehicle? In almost all 50 states, filing for an abandoned vehicle means you are giving away the vehicle. You don’t get to keep it. Abandoned vehicles are not “finder’s keepers”. It’s not where you can just file and get to claim a vehicle because it’s abandoned. In fact, most of the time when the word abandoned is used, the state will seize the vehicle from you and sell it at auction after going through a notification process. 

So, why is it so hard to file for an abandoned vehicle? Here’s an example. Here’s a comment from one of our videos from a user who said “My vehicle has a warning under investigation over an abandoned vehicle. My truck is in front of my property on a public residential street. It has an active sticker. The truck moves but it simply doesn’t move that much because we all work from home. We order things online. We have our own gym room. We pay our taxes and business.” So here’s a person who has their vehicle on the street in front of their house. Somebody obviously saw it and thought maybe it was abandoned it hasn’t moved for a long time and they filed an abandoned vehicle report. And so they put a sticker on it and that’s what the state will do.

The government will put a sticker on it. They’ll give it some time, notify the owner, and if they don’t hear back, they’ll auction it off. Well, that vehicle that you’re calling abandoned maybe somebody’s vehicle that’s on vacation or in the military. Maybe they don’t go out that much or it’s an extra vehicle. You may know about that vehicle, you may know that the person moved out of the apartment and they went overseas or you may know that they died. You may know more about it, but it doesn’t matter though because the DMV doesn’t know and they’re not allowed to issue you a title saying you are the owner until they exhaust all of the investigations. That’s why this person says, “the vehicles under investigation”, that’s what they do. The DMV agency in your state will do an investigation before they do anything with an abandoned vehicle. They want to make sure that no one wants that vehicle. Not the prior owner, not a lien holder, not a relative, not a co-owner. 

Once the investigation is completed and the prior owner or other security interests have been notified and do not have an interest in claiming the vehicle, the state will auction it off for the value of the vehicle. Once it’s auctioned off that money is held. Some of it is used to pay the fees for towing or for auctioning, but the rest of that money is held in case later somebody comes forward and said Hey that’s my car! If it’s truly abandoned and nobody wants it then the money actually goes to the state. They get to keep it. Abandoned vehicles are not it’s not the wild west where you can just claim something that you see that’s unoccupied Now, if it’s a different story than that which it usually is, maybe you bought a car or somebody that you know, put on your property or they gave it to you. That’s a different story. Now you have methods of filing for a title. You can do a court order title or you could do a civil lien instead of a mechanics lien
Be very careful about using the word abandoned vehicle because as soon as you do that, it may trigger a requirement that the state seizes it. They do an investigation, then they auction it off. And this is the reason why this person worries about losing their car because they don’t go anywhere. You know they go door dash, Uber or, they have a gym in their house and they don’t go anywhere which a lot of people do now. This is to protect somebody like this. This may not be the case in your situation but the state doesn’t know that so they’re not allowed to simply hand over a title. Use one of the other methods other than abandoned such as court order title, civil lien, or bonded title.

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