What is an Abandoned Vehicle?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari
Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

An abandoned vehicle is a car, truck, or other automobile that has been left in a certain place for a certain amount of time without a claim of ownership. The exact definition of an abandoned vehicle will vary from place to place, and many cities and towns have specific regulations regarding the handling of these vehicles. It is sometimes possible to lay claim to the vehicle; in some places, a person must pay for the vehicle, while in other places, one can lay claim to the vehicle without paying for it. The vehicle then becomes that person's responsibility, and removal of the vehicle may be necessary.

In most cases, a vehicle can only be labeled as abandoned by a law enforcement officer. This means an officer of the law must be made aware of the vehicle and inspect it thoroughly to determine if a current owner can be found. The owner of that abandoned vehicle is responsible for its removal, and if the vehicle is not removed from a public or private location, the owner may be subject to fines or other legal proceedings. If the owner cannot be determined, the abandoned vehicle may be towed by a towing company that must impound the vehicle for a certain amount of time before anyone can lay claim to it.

The abandoned vehicle may also be determined to be a salvaged or junked vehicle. A salvaged vehicle is one that has been damaged so severely that an insurance company has found it to be impractical to repair. A junked vehicle is one that has been dismantled or otherwise degraded to the point that it is no longer useful or operable. In either case, the vehicle may be abandoned, and a person may lay claim to it by going through the appropriate local channels.

A person who wants to lay claim to a specific vehicle must often wait a certain amount of time before going through the process. Paperwork must be filled out and submitted to the proper authorities, who will in turn conduct research to find the current owner, if one exists. If someone does make a claim to the vehicle in question, the issue may end up in court to determine the current rightful owner. A current owner may choose to sell the vehicle to a person making a claim on the abandoned vehicle; that owner will also be responsible for paying fines on the vehicle and removing it from premises, if applicable.

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      Man with hands on his hips