What Does Abandoned Vehicle Mean?

You have probably heard the term ‘abandoned vehicle’, but what does it mean? An abandoned vehicle refers to cars, trucks, boats- anything with a motor- that has been left behind on public property. What is it that constitutes an abandoned vehicle from merely a vehicle that is having engine trouble or perhaps is parked improperly? This is where it becomes a legal issue; as abandoning a vehicle on public property- or someone else’s private property- is a violation of most municipal codes and laws.

What is an “Abandoned Vehicle?”

So, what does the term ‘abandoned vehicles’ refer to? Abandoned vehicles are usually cars, trucks, and anything with a motor that has been illegally left behind in the environment. The criteria of abandonment varies depending on where you are, but usually the vehicle must be abandoned for a minimum of a few days to be considered truly abandoned by law. Some vehicles may not run at all while others may.

Abandoned cars do put strain on the environment, like any other improperly disposed trash does, and may pose risks to public wellbeing. First, abandoned vehicles can become havens for pests or wildlife that will present a health hazard. These cars or trucks can also become an eyesore that impacts property values widely over time. It is also worth noting that vehicles left behind may leak oils and chemicals that are toxic to humans and animals? Many abandoned vehicles will garner the attention of law enforcement and the authorities when they are parked illegally, or in someone’s favorite space, and have further inconvenienced the surrounding neighbors.

What Does the Law Say?

There are specific laws regarding abandoned vehicles-- but your first order of business should be to know where you can and cannot park your vehicle. Don’t let an improper parking of your car lead to it being towed as an abandoned vehicle. When law enforcement first is notified of a possible abandoned vehicle, they will put a notice on the car giving a timeframe for when it will be towed and impounded. These laws are in place to prevent nuisances, fire hazards, and overall urban congestion. Notices are given to the last recognized owner of the abandoned vehicle, as identified by public records. If impounded and unclaimed, these vehicles may be disposed of, sold, or auctioned-off by the municipality the car was abandoned in. Some towns or agencies may attempt to recover costs from the owner, including storage fees, towing costs, or legal charges.

The laws governing the amount of time you can leave your vehicle behind on public and private properties often share common themes and time frames. For instance, the following guidelines pertaining to identifying abandoned vehicles are standard in many American communities:

--  The vehicle (car, truck, boat, or any other motorized vessel) doesn’t operate, is five or more years old, and has been left unattended for more than 48 hours on public property or domain.

-- A car, truck, or other vehicle has remained illegally parked for more than 48 hours on public property or domain.

-- A vehicle (as previously defined) has been left behind on private property for more than 48 hours without the consent or permission of the property owner, or the person in charge of the property.

-- The vehicle has been left behind or parked unattended on the side or shoulder of a county, state, or federal highway for more than 48 hours.

-- There may be specific ordinances in place pertaining to disabled or inoperable vehicles, such as those without tires or that are broken down. Consult with your local authorities to learn more.

Does Your Car not Run? What can You Do?

Assume for a moment that you park on a public street or thoroughfare and when you return to your car, the engine won’t start. If you leave your vehicle in the spot indefinitely while arranging for auto repair, does that make it an abandoned vehicle? Could you face fines, towing, or legal issues by leaving it there? The short answer is ‘yes’; you don’t want to risk it. One simple solution is to call today and prevent your car, truck, or other vehicle from being impounded and racking up fees. Many cities and towns put a 72-hour limit on disabled vehicles, as well as restrict parking of RVs or working vehicles from parking in the same place, unless they are out of sight. It often varies from one region to the next.

Have you thought about selling a car that is taking up space in your garage or yard? Maybe instead of dealing with the repercussions of having your car legally deemed abandoned, you should consider selling it to an area dealer who will not only come and remove the problem for you, but also pay you cash at the same time.  The dedicated team at Sell Us Your Car AZ are typically able to provide an estimate over the phone before showing up to remove an abandoned car or junk vehicle for you.  You won’t need to wait around, hunt down a title, and potentially face more issues related to the problem. Let the team know that you lost the title when arranging to have your car removed and they will bring all that is needed for the paperwork, and still pay cash for your vehicle!

Everyone has the right to park on public streets provided they are in compliance with regional vehicle codes, so if you are planning to report an abandoned vehicle, know the laws when it comes to your community.  When making a report to your local authorities, you should plan on providing the vehicle’s make, model, license plate number, and specific location. Before involving law enforcement, ask around to see if the vehicle belongs to a neighbor or local business, and then ask for it to be moved if its presence is causing issues for you. Often these are not truly abandoned vehicles, but merely a lack of awareness about parking protocol on the part of the vehicle’s owner.


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