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California and Colorado, Not the Easiest Places to Title a Barn Find

Despite their opposite landscapes, California and Colorado share rules of titling a vehicle so rigid that it makes you wonder why couldn't they make things as relaxed as in other states; yet, it is not impossible to get a title for an abandoned car there either.
Cimaron abandoned city in Colorado 8 photos
Chevrolet Chevelle found on a propertyunkyard in Pueblo COJunkyard in Yucca Valley CAJunkyard in Yucca Valley CACimaron abandoned carsCimaron abandoned carsColorado form
After the relaxed laws of the A-states, you'd expect to have similar, or at least not that complicated, rules for California and Colorado. Even though the former has a shoreline and the latter a timberline, they do have one thing in common: getting a title for a barn find is a pain in the you know what. Basically, you have to kind of trick the system, since there is no rule such as "hey, I found this car on my property, and it should be mine to keep." But, no! Read along as we struggle to find some solutions.California dream-on
If you see an eye-watering relic on your property or on the side of the road, left to rust, it can't be yours. The "finder's keeper's" rule does not apply here. If you find it, you usually have to call the local police and have it removed from there. On the other hand, you might have a chance to buy it at an auction, if it won't be considered scrap metal and sent to the crushers.

First things first: if a car is left on the side of the road, an officer will put a notice on it, securely attached, 72 hours prior to removing the vehicle with a tow-truck service. If that vehicle lacks the parts that will make it roadworthy (such as engine, tranny, doors, windows, etc.), it will be removed at once. After that, the law enforcement agencies will try to contact the owner according to the vehicle's VIN and, if no one is found, it will end up as scrap metal. Was that a 1930 Rolls-Royce? Who cares?

If that vehicle is on your newly acquired property, it must be a huge mistake to call the cops and tell them that you want it. That's not going to happen. Instead, you can issue an invoice for the storage on your land. Of course, no one will show up to pay that fee, and you'll end up in the DMV office. There, you can show the invoice for the past 60 days, and place a lien for that vehicle. They will search for the owner and send you the details so you can send him a registered return receipt letter with the invoice. Beware, they will also do a search for stolen vehicles. If it was stolen, then you'll have to give it away.

Next step is to wait for an answer. If the owner doesn't answer and you get only the unopened letter, that's good news. Then, you can have a lien sale for that vehicle, which you have to post publicly in local newspapers or hang a "4 sale" sign on your front house window. It has to be visible from outside your property, though, don't keep it too low.

On the glorious day of the lien sale, wait to see if someone will come to buy that scrap metal you have, and they have to pay at least the amount of the lien. By the way, you can charge a $100 a day. If no one shows up, go to DMV, tell them that no one came and you want to take possession of the vehicle, and they will issue the papers for you. Title included and sent by mail.Barn finds in Colorado, from nightmare to dream
In the dry state of Colorado, cars are usually well-preserved. The low moist and unsalted air will keep them quite safe from rust. Paint suffers, though, but that is not the biggest problem. Try to get an abandoned vehicle, and you'll end up in a similar situation as the folks from California. If it's on the side of the road, then it's not yours.

The right way to do that was not that easy since the authorities could've taken the car. So, in order to get it, the owner should've issued an invoice for storage, announced a lien sale, and then take it.

But there is also another way: get a rebuilder title. That rule applies for vehicles at least 25 years old, without documents. You have the complete checklist in the gallery as per form DR 2187. In the end, this might be a better way to get the relic done. Beware, though, that the vehicle might end up with a Colorado VIN, which will drastically decrease its resale value.

Editor's note: The information in this article are not legal advice; for any requests regarding an abandoned vehicle, refer to local law enforcement agencies.


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