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Colorado Abandoned Vehicle Title Procedures

Abandoned vehicles are a common concern, often prompting individuals to seek ways to obtain a title for a vehicle they’ve acquired. However, the term “abandoned” doesn’t necessarily mean a vehicle has magically appeared on your property without explanation. In most cases, people claiming a vehicle is abandoned have acquired it through various means, such as purchasing it on Craigslist, acquiring it from a towing company, or receiving it for sale without a title.

Here, we’ll examine an example from the state of Colorado, using their Department of Revenue’s “Abandonment of Motor Vehicles Private Tow Requirements Checklist” to illustrate why the term “abandoned” doesn’t equate to a straightforward process for obtaining a title.

Abandoned Vehicle Process Overview:

  1. Tow Operator Notification to Law Enforcement:
    • Within 30 minutes of picking up an abandoned vehicle on private property, the tow operator must contact law enforcement.
  2. Record Search Submission to DMV:
    • Between two and ten calendar days of towing, the tow operator must submit a record search request to the DMV to identify the vehicle’s owner.
  3. Notice to Owner:
    • The tow operator sends a notice to the owner, stating that the vehicle has been towed and impounded. The owner typically has 30 days to pay outstanding fees and retrieve the vehicle.
  4. Vehicle Sale or Disposal:
    • If the owner doesn’t retrieve the vehicle within the specified time frame, it can be sold or disposed of. The sale must occur within 30 to 60 days from the postmark of the notice.
  5. Forms and Documentation for Title Application:
    • Depending on the vehicle’s value, specific forms and documents are required to obtain a title. For vehicles valued at $350 or less, it may receive a junk or parts-only title.

Challenges and Additional Requirements:

  • Bond Requirement for Vehicles Valued Over $350:
    • If the vehicle’s value exceeds $350, the buyer must purchase a surety bond for a minimum of $700.
  • Additional Documentation Needed for Title Application:
    • Various documents such as an original private tow information request, bill of sale and appraisal to the buyer, VIN verification, application for title event inspection, and a no-record printout are necessary.
  • Salvage Designation Disclosure:
    • The tow operator is required to disclose if the vehicle has a salvage title. If indicated during VIN inspection, the buyer may apply for a salvage title.
  • Commercially Reasonable Sale:
    • The vehicle must be sold in a commercially reasonable manner, often through public auctions.

Abandoned Vehicles Are Not Finders Keepers

The outlined process in Colorado demonstrates that abandoned vehicles are not simply finders keepers situations. For civilians without tow operator licenses, the ability to declare a vehicle abandoned and initiate this process is limited. Even when allowed, it involves a complex series of steps and requirements.

Alternative Methods for Obtaining a Title: If you’re seeking a title for a vehicle you’ve acquired, there are alternative methods that don’t involve labeling it as abandoned. Options such as surety bond titles, prior owner contact, magistrate titles, and court order titles provide more controlled and legally sound avenues.

Consulting Title Professionals: For assistance in navigating the complexities of obtaining a title, reaching out to title professionals, whether in the title division or the surety bond division, can provide valuable guidance. They can offer insights into the most suitable methods for your specific situation, helping you secure a legitimate title without resorting to the abandoned vehicle process.

In summary, understanding the limitations and complexities of abandoned vehicle procedures highlights the importance of exploring alternative avenues to secure a title legally and effectively.

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Don’t let uncertainty hold you back. If it’s your car, you deserve a title.

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