How to Remove an Abandoned Vehicle

Abandoned vehicles are an eyesore.
••• car wreck image by FotoWorx from

Abandoned vehicles are not only an eyesore, but they also can attract lawbreakers who break in, vandalize, and even burn vehicles that are never moved. So what recourse does the average citizen have against abandoned vehicles? First of all, it depends if the vehicle is on a public road or thoroughfare, or if it is on private property. If the vehicle is on someone's private property, there's not much you can do about it. However, if it's on your private property, you have a good chance of either having it removed or taking possession of the vehicle yourself. Just remember to carefully obey all state laws in whatever you do.

Vehicle is on Property You Do Not Own

Call the police. Call your state department of motor vehicles. Call your county highway department. If they won't tow the vehicle, get as much advice from these sources as possible.

Contact a nationwide vehicle removal service (see "References" for two examples). See if they will remove the vehicle.

Search online for "abandoned vehicles" or "vehicle removal service" along with your zip code. Contact state or local agencies that will remove the vehicle.

If the Vehicle is on Your Property and You Want to Take Possession

Research abandoned vehicle laws on your state's Department of Motor Vehicles website. If allowed by your state, obtain the vehicle identification number (under the driver's side of the front windshield) and license plate number (if any). Take that information to your Department of Motor Vehicles and inquire about your rights. Obtain the owner's contact information, if allowed.

Mail a certified letter with your DMV form to the owner (states like Virginia and Alaska allow this). Wait to see if the owner will claim the vehicle. If they do not claim the vehicle within the stipulated period of time, states like Virginia require you to post your intention to auction the vehicle on the DMV website for a stipulated period of time before taking possession of it (see References). Other states like Alaska make it simpler. Their DMV form #825 allows you to simply take possession of the vehicle if you haven't heard back from the owner in 30 days (see

After you have the vehicle's title, contact a locksmith and have keys made for the vehicle. Move the vehicle, fix it, sell it, scrap it, or give it away.


  • It is a crime to do anything at all to the abandoned vehicle before you legally take possession of it.

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