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FAQs About Abandoned Vehicles

What is an abandoned vehicle?

An abandoned vehicle is one that the owner has left behind with no intention of returning. If you know where the vehicle came from or who it belongs to, it’s probably not an abandoned vehicle.

Who can file an abandoned vehicle process?

In most states, not everyone can file for an abandoned vehicle process. In fact, most states require that you are a licensed automotive repair shop, automotive storage facility, towing company, or another authorized company that deals with vehicles.

What is the first step in an abandoned vehicle process?

The first step is often to verify that the vehicle’s value is within your state’s guidelines to use this process. Many states require the value of the vehicle to be around $5,000 or less. This means, in most states, you can’t use an abandoned vehicle process on a luxury or high-value vehicle. However, it’s important to note that not all states have vehicle value restrictions.

What is the second step in an abandoned vehicle process?

The next step is to submit a DPPA request (Driver’s Privacy Protection Act) to the DMV to obtain owner and lienholder records. The DPPA protects driver information from being used or obtained in an unlawful manner. If you already know the owner of the vehicle, you still have to submit a DPPA request to obtain the official owner and lienholder records.

Why do the records have to be from the DMV?

Unfortunately, the abandoned vehicle process is often fraudulently used. The DMV requires that you use their information because, in the past, scammers have used fake addresses and names to avoid actually contacting the registered owners. When the notice is returned unopened, the scammer now has the legal evidence they need to continue with the process. If they were required to use the official DMV records, the DMV would know that they didn’t contact the actual owner and they are in fact scamming the process.

Why can’t you move an abandoned vehicle from where it was found?

Most abandoned vehicle affidavits require that you keep the vehicle in its original location. By moving the vehicle after beginning the process, the DMV can’t verify if the vehicle was actually found where you said it was, which will void the entire process.

Why aren’t abandoned vehicles “finder’s keepers”?

Abandoned vehicles aren’t automatically finders keepers because most vehicles that are called abandoned aren’t actually abandoned. The abandoned vehicle process is intentionally drawn out to ensure that all of the correct owners have been notified. For example, say you go on vacation and loan your car to a friend for the week. If abandoned vehicles were “finder’s keepers”, this person who is in physical possession of your vehicle could claim your vehicle as abandoned on their property while you’re away and retitle it in their name.

Why are abandoned vehicle packages often rejected?

As we mentioned previously, this process is often abused. The state’s first line of defense to protect against these fraudulent applications is to reject all of them that come in. If someone is scamming them, they may get scared off. If it’s not a scam, it’s likely to be resubmitted. 

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