How to Legally Get Possession of Abandoned Vehicles in Alabama and Alaska

Sometimes we see a vehicle that looks abandoned on the side of the road or in the middle of nowhere and we might think that it could be a treasure in our garage. Yet that’s not always the case.
The removal of the "Magic Bus" in Alaska 6 photos
VW Thing on a second life1964 Chevrolet Impala in Clanton - Alabama1964 International Harvester Loader abandonedThe Magic Bus from "Into the wild" removal in Alaska1969 Pontiac GTO found in Anchorage
Most cars that now litter our yards, fields, or roads were someone’s joy long ago. Over time they started to break, suffer wear and tear, and pay the price of age and miles. At some point they ended up meaning nothing to their owners, and were left to rot in barns or fields. Usually, cars found on the side of a road just died there, some with an empty tank and others with a broken engine.

There are also many situations when these vehicles were abandoned by burglars or thieves. Regardless of the situation, drivers decide to leave these cars be, some of them even with the keys in the ignition. But abandoning a car is illegal, and there are consequences.
Alabama abandoned vehicle policy
In Alabama, most vehicles left unattended on a public or private property might fall under the abandoned vehicles laws. If they're parked on the side of the roads, highways, private or public properties for more than 48 hours, cars are considered abandoned. Legally, the owner has to notify the Department of Revenue (DOR) within five days after the vehicle was noted as abandoned. Failure to do so may result the “in the forfeiture of all claims and liens for the vehicle’s garaging, parking, and storage prior to the time the vehicle is reported as unclaimed.”

1964 International Harvester Loader abandoned
What happens next is that the owner of the vehicle will use the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) to determine the state where the vehicle is registered and, after they receive the result, they must comply with that state's records request procedures. That’s why it is important, if you found an allegedly abandoned car, to gather all the information. Bear in mind that the DOR places a 60-day hold on the vehicle title record to protect the person or entity's interest in the vehicle.

Within five days after receiving the NMVTIS record, the entity must send a Notice of Possession to the registered owner, title owner, and lienholder of registered mail. If nothing happens, the DOR will post at least one announcement per week for two consecutive weeks in the county where the vehicle was registered, and will hold a public auction to sell the vehicle at least 35 days after the first publication date.

Those who bought a vehicle through that auction will get a bill of sale from the Unclaimed/Abandoned portal, which can be used to apply for an Alabama certificate title.
Alaska, the humid state with light procedures
In Alaska, the moist air won’t only destroy a vehicle, but it can also “dissolve” the title for an abandoned vehicle. If the vehicle is stopped within 10 feet of the highway, on a public property, the state will take care of it. If it’s on a private property, then the vehicle might be claimed by the owner of that land. There is also a procedure and a few steps to follow, which include notifications sent to the owner of the title of the vehicle. If no one answers, then the State will sell the vehicle (if it was found on public properties).

1964 Chevrolet Impala in Clanton \- Alabama
If the vehicle was found on a private property, the owner of that place could get the title for the vehicle. They still must go through the mandatory steps on finding the vehicle title owner and publishing in a newspaper located near the vehicle owner's address of records. They also have to try and send a notice to the last known address of the vehicle owner. If there is no answer in 30 days, the Alaska State may transfer the title of that vehicle to the owner of the property where the vehicle was found abandoned. We must say that a vehicle must be inspected by law enforcement to certify the VIN number. That will help in the prevention of theft or fraud.

Our next stop will be in Arizona, Arkansas and Colorado. Stay tuned!

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


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