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How to claim ownership on an abandoned vehicle

Updated March 23, 2017

So you've noticed a car sitting on the wayside, and you can't recall ever seeing someone driving it. You start to think that you'd like to get your hands on that car, if indeed there is no owner. Claiming ownership on an abandoned vehicle has been done before, and you can do it as long as you abide by the law. There are two common ways you can claim ownership of an abandoned vehicle, and a few traps to avoid as you seek ownership of the vehicle.

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  1. You do need to be careful before taking any action or you may risk a criminal record. There is no legal definition of an "abandoned vehicle" but there are certain characteristics that will help you to decide if indeed it is "abandoned." These include but do not need all of the following indicators:

  2. Whether taxed or not Doors open/unlocked Flat tyres/missing wheels Windows open/broken Burnt out Rusty brake discs Containing waste Significant damage Mould on the inside Stationary for a significant time Missing one or more plates Location of vehicle Details of vehicle held by DVLA Status of land where vehicle is located

  3. You should also consider whether the car is "abandoned" in a private car park or on a public road. If it is in a private car park it may be considered as property of the car park owner.

  4. You should report the abandoned car to your local council and not the police. The next step is to go to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) to establish if the car has a registered owner. If you manage to be put in contact with the owner, tell him or her that the car will be towed at his expense. That will motivate her to send you the title so you can take charge of the car.

  5. If the owner agrees then you will register the car as your own.

Claiming ownership by auction

  1. Go to your local DVLA and report the abandoned vehicle. Tell the officer the vehicle's number plate number, colour, model, tax information and precise location. Ask the officer if he can track down the owner of the car so you can take ownership of it.

  2. Keep tabs on the car, if the DVLA can't track down the owner. Chances are, the car will be towed and the towing company will auction it off to the highest bidder.

  3. Take your chequebook and purchase the car at the auction. Once you've signed the title to the car, it's yours.

  4. Tip

    The DVLA may not give information to you about the owner, leaving you unable to call the owner directly. Instead, you can ask the DVLA to contact the owner on your behalf about selling the vehicle to you.

    Warning

    Many abandoned cars are stolen cars. Do a background check on the car with your local police department to make sure you are legally claiming ownership of the car. Don't ever get behind the wheel of the car and attempt to drive it before you have legal ownership of it. Doing so is stealing the car.

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Things You'll Need

  • The registration
  • Make, colour and model
  • Whether it is taxed
  • The precise location

About the Author

Writer/editor

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