Missouri and Montana Give Abandoned Vehicles to Landowners or Towing Companies

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With the U.S. industry producing so many cars over the last century, and many others coming from abroad, it obvious that not all of them have been recycled or dismantled. As a result, some are still on the roads, others litter the scenery, and few are waiting to be discovered in barns, forests, and fields.
Those traveling don't want to see abandoned cars on the side of the roads or scattered across the nearby fields. That might look like doomsday, and it won't be pleasant scenery, especially in states with nicknames like Show-me or Big Sky. That, and the dangerous waste produced by rusty old junks, are some of the reasons why governments are trying to get rid of those unpleasant "decorations" left behind by careless people.

The Show-me state

Some people heard about Missouri from Mark Twain, who was born here, and some because of the Gateway Arch. If neither of that applies, Budweiser should complete the knowledge since it originates from the Show-me state. Moreover, Charles Lindberg came from Missouri and made the first trans-Atlantic flight in his experimental plane nicknamed Spirit of St. Louis, after his hometown. With all that heritage and an almost flat land, the government made a specific law regarding abandoned cars and how to obtain them just to keep them out of sight.

The Missouri laws says that if a vehicle is left unattended for more than 24 hours on a public road outside an urban area, it is considered abandoned (ABV), and a towing company may remove it. If law enforcement considers that it's a threat to other motorists, that time is reduced to just four hours. In an urban area, the authorities give the owner ten hours, if the car doesn't represent a serious hazard to other road users.

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On private properties with four residential units or less, that ABV may be removed by a towing company after ten hours. If it is a non-residential property, the relic can be removed 96 hours after the police are notified. Thus, there are a few ways for someone to get their hands on such an abandoned vehicle.

As in many other situations, the towing company might be the winner since it may claim the vehicle so it can cover its costs. For that, it has to obtain the name of the last owner/lienholder of the vehicle and send him a notification by certified mail 30 days prior to the application for Missouri Title and License. It also has to file for the Abandoned Property Affidavit completed, filed and notarized. Depending on the situation and if the ABV is considered junk or salvage, the towing company must fill other forms, which law enforcement will require.

Suppose the property owner wants to claim a vehicle found on their property. In that case, they must go through similar steps as a towing company regarding the 30-day notification sent by certified mail to the owner and/or lienholder. The main difference is that the towing company doesn't have to pay for a title.

In the Treasure State, bonded titles rules

Montana's name came from Spanish and means mountains. It is one of the eight mountain-states in the U.S., and it's also known as The Treasure State due to its mining activities. In its mountains, gold was discovered in 1852, which fueled the gold rush. Here, every traveler has to know that it is very unsafe to stop on the side of the road to admire the scenery, since there are more than 1,800 grizzly bears around. And no, they won't be impressed by your vehicle, unless it is a tank. Worth mentioning that Montana ranks third in most dangerous states to drive.

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There are two important rules regarding bonded titling a vehicle in Montana: first, only state residents can apply for a bonded title, and second, if the value of the relic is less than $500, there is no need for a surety bond. Unlike other states, the surety bonds here must be equal to the vehicle's evaluation price, not one-and-a-half like some other states require. Like in other states, though, the bonded title expires after three years. This procedure is so clean and neat that it makes you wonder why other states are not doing the same and end up with piles of junk spread across their lands.

Like in most other situations, the landowner has to notify police about a car found on their property and has two options: either keep it or call a towing company. They can claim it afterward if no owner shows up on their doorsteps to claim and to will to pay for it. A vehicle is considered abandoned if it is left unattended for 48 hours on public highways, or five days on private property.
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Editor's note: The information in this article is not legal advice; for any info regarding an abandoned vehicle, refer to local law enforcement agencies.

About the author: Tudor Serban
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Tudor started his automotive career in 1996, writing for a magazine while working on his journalism degree. From Pikes Peaks to the Moroccan desert to the Laguna Seca, he's seen and done it all.
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