An individual can get title for an abandoned car in Arkansas state by making sure the title history is clear. They should look for records that identify the prior owner and lien holder. Then they should contact the prior owner and lien holder to notify them that they plan to get title to the vehicle. In addition, the individual should publicize the intended title transfer.
Finally, the person should register the vehicle, obtain a license plate for it and pay the sales tax on it. The Arkansas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) homepage provides links to check a car’s title status, calculate sales tax and register a new vehicle. An individual should document all the steps in this process.
Definition of Abandoned Vehicle
Chapter 27 of the Arkansas Code covers transportation, including procedures for towing and definitions regarding vehicles. An abandoned vehicle is defined as a vehicle that is unattended and for which the owner has overtly manifested some intention not to retake possession.
Alternatively, an abandoned vehicle is one that remains unattended, whether in its first-found location or in another location to which it has been removed for a period of 30 days during which the owner gives no evidence of an intent to retake possession. An abandoned vehicle that is located in a public spot, such as near a roadway, may have been tagged with a colored form or an observable sticker by a law enforcement officer.
Researching Registered Owners and Lien Holders
An individual can find out who has title to a motor vehicle by obtaining a report from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). A NMVTIS Vehicle History Report verifies the current state of the title and the last title date. (It is a good thing if a NMVTIS report does not contain a great deal of information.) An individual should get a NMVTIS report from an approved data provider such as Bumper.com.
The information in a NMVTIS report comes from insurance carriers, auto recyclers, junkyards and salvage yards. The person who wants to take title to the abandoned vehicle should send letters to the owners and lien holders. They should also publish a notice in a local newspaper stating that they intend to take title.
Registering Title for a Vehicle
After ensuring the vehicle title is clear, the prospective owner should complete a Vehicle Registration Application. They will need detailed information about the car, including the vehicle identification number (VIN); the previous title number; the year, make and model of the car; and the odometer reading. The fee for registering a motor vehicle is dependent on the size of the vehicle. For example, as of November 2021, there is a $17 fee to register a vehicle weighing 3,000 pounds or less; a $25 fee to register a vehicle between 3,001 and 4,500 pounds.
Vehicle on Inherited Property
A vehicle found on inherited property is likely to be considered part of the inheritance. It is likely that the individual who created the will or trust regarding the real property knew about the vehicle. After a probate court has determined that a vehicle is part of an inheritance, an affidavit of inheritance of a motor vehicle should be completed. The party who wants to own the vehicle should present the certificate of title, proof that the former owner has passed, and the affidavit of inheritance to the Arkansas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Transferring Vehicle Title
An individual may discover that a vehicle which appears to be abandoned is actually owned by someone. If the two parties come to an agreement for the sale or transfer of the motor vehicle, the previous owner has the option of providing the local DMV with notification of the sale or transfer. The former owner will need to provide the DMV with the year, make and model of the car, the VIN and the date of transfer. There is a $10 fee to transfer title.
When There Is a Lien
When a party like a bank has a lien on a vehicle, the lien holder may complete and sign a permission to issue a replacement title form. The title will be mailed to the lien holder. If the person who wants to acquire the vehicle states that a recorded lien has been released, a lien release is required.
A notification will be sent to the lien holder to inform them that they have 10 business days to respond if the lien release is not valid. If the lien holder does not respond within 10 business days, the title will be printed and given to the owner. If the lien holder states that the lien release is not valid, the duplicate title will be mailed to the lien holder. The applicant to become the new owner must provide information to identify the vehicle, such as the VIN, title number or license plate number.
Risks of Possessing Abandoned Vehicles
An abandoned vehicle may be stolen. Before taking possession of a car that appears to be an abandoned vehicle, a person should reach out to the appropriate law enforcement agency to determine if the police have a report about the vehicle and whether the vehicle is classified as stolen. The individual may want to request that a towing company move the abandoned vehicle instead of moving it themselves. If the vehicle is stolen, moving it could be considered to be tampering with evidence or attempting to steal the vehicle again.
When a Vehicle Is Stolen
When a vehicle is stolen property, law enforcement officers are unlikely to consider it to be abandoned. Instead, the officers usually will attempt to return the vehicle to its rightful owner. This means the person who found the car may not be able to get title to it.
An individual who wants to acquire the car should stay in contact with the law enforcement agency that has taken physical possession of the car or investigating it in order to learn whether there is a chance to purchase or otherwise acquire the vehicle. Law enforcement officers may impound a vehicle and retain it in official custody if they determine that it is stolen. They may also search the vehicle when they impound it to the extent that is reasonably necessary for safekeeping of the vehicle and its contents.
- National Motor Vehicle Title Information System: Understanding an NMVTIS Vehicle History Report
- National Motor Vehicle Title Information System: Research Vehicle History
- Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration: Vehicle Registration Application
- Arkansas Towing and Recovery Board: Statutes Related to Towing
- National Motor Vehicle Title Information System: Approved NMVTIS Data Providers
- Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration: Motor Vehicle Registration Fee Schedule
- Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration: Affidavit of Inheritance of a Motor Vehicle
- Arkansas State Legislature: Arkansas Law
- Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration: Replacement Title
- Pursuit to Arkansas Code 27-50-1101, the definition of vehicle abandonment includes: "(A) Being unattended by the owner who has overtly manifested some intention to not retake possession; (B) Remaining unattended, whether in the location first found or in another location that the vehicle has been removed to pursuant to this subchapter, for a period of thirty (30) days, during which the owner has given no evidence of an intent to retake possession; (C) Having been left for repairs at a vehicle repair business by the vehicle owner and left unclaimed for forty-five (45) days from the time that the repair work is complete or; (D) Having been left for repairs at a vehicle repair business by the vehicle owner who has failed to pay for repair work performed by the vehicle repair business for forty-five (45) days from the time that the repair work is complete."
- Don't assume that your newly acquired vehicle falls under the state's statutes regarding abandonment. Explain your situation to a county revenue office and let them determine your eligibility.
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.