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What Can You Do With An Abandoned Vehicle In Washington State?

If you find yourself in possession of an abandoned vehicle in Washington state, you’re probably wondering what you can do with it. If the vehicle is junk, can you get a parts-only title so it can be sold for parts? Can you sell an abandoned vehicle or get the title transferred to your name? Without the prior title, there are limitations to what you can do with an abandoned vehicle in Washington state.

Can I sell an abandoned vehicle left on my property?

No, you cannot sell an abandoned vehicle on your property in Washington state. To sell a vehicle, you have to have the title signed over by the prior owner. If you know the prior owner and have access to the title, then the vehicle is not abandoned. To remove an abandoned vehicle in Washington state, you must have a registered tow company remove the vehicle.

Can I claim ownership of an abandoned vehicle on my property?

It is possible to claim ownership of an abandoned vehicle in Washington state. There are three possible paths to claim ownership of the vehicle:

Option #1: Locate the prior owner and request they obtain a duplicate title.

The most direct way to obtain ownership of an abandoned vehicle is to contact the Washington Department of Licensing and request the motor vehicle title record. You can make a request for this information online. In this request, state the reason you’re requesting the information and provide any other documentation you have on the vehicle. Upon receiving the motor vehicle record from the Department of Licensing, you must contact the registered owner and request that they obtain a duplicate title. If they agree, they must apply for a duplicate title and then sign over the duplicate title to your name. With the signed certificate of title, you can take that to the DMV to transfer the title into your name. Note that some vehicles may have inspection requirements or other additional criteria be met.

While this may be a direct way, it may not be the easiest. Motor vehicle records are protected under the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) and are considered private information. Depending on your circumstances, it may be difficult to obtain this information from your local DMV. Additionally, even if you are able to obtain this information, the registered owner is not obligated to apply for a duplicate title to sign over to you. If the registered owner is not willing or able to help, you will have to proceed with a different method of ownership.

Option #2: Have the vehicle towed, then bid on it at auction

You cannot sell an abandoned vehicle, but a registered tow company can place it for auction. After having the abandoned vehicle towed from your property, the tow company will be required to contact the registered owner and security interests prior to the auction. Once all notice and publication requirements have been satisfied by the tow company, they may place the vehicle up for auction. As the “finder” of the abandoned vehicle, you are permitted to bid on the vehicle along with the general public. If you purchase the vehicle at auction, there may be specific inspection and time requirements to obtain a vehicle title.

Option #3: Obtain a court-ordered title

If all else fails, you can petition your local court for ownership through a court-ordered title, also known as a magistrate title. This process is done at the county level and requires you to open a lawsuit against the vehicle. The objective is to have the judge legally declare you the owner of the vehicle. If the judge provides you with a court order, you can take that to the DMV in exchange for a vehicle title in your name. This may seem straightforward, but every county in the country has its own process to obtain a court-ordered title. This is not legal advice, before using this method, we recommend getting legal advice.

Before deciding to remove an abandoned vehicle from your property, consider one of these methods to obtain a title. If you follow the proper procedures, you may be able to get a title. Once you have the vehicle title in your name, you are free to sell or keep the vehicle. If you simply want the vehicle removed from your property and you’re not interested in obtaining a title, call a registered tow company to remove it. Once they remove it, it’s up to them to dispose of it or sell it. The abandoned vehicle process may seem tricky, but using these tips can help you obtain a title for an abandoned vehicle in Washington state.

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