Tips to Get a Title for an Abandoned Car in Washington and West Virginia

1954-desoto-firedome-coupe 8 photos
Photo: Performance Auto Gallery/eBay
1954-desoto-firedome-coupe1956-studebaker-transtar-pickup-truck1972-chevrolet-impala-West Virginia1972-chevrolet-impala-West VirginiaAbandoned_Dodge_WAparked-and-forgotten-1966-ford-thunderbird WAYugo_Sport abandoned
Most of the time, cars abandoned on private properties are no longer in running order, and are so cheap the owner doesn't even care to fix them anymore, as these wrecks might not deserve a second chance. But there are also other things to consider.
Suppose a new land owner opens a barn hidden in the back, between trees, and find an old muscle car. It might be rotten here and there, or have missing parts from it. But it could be restored and shine again on the road, or at an auction. In Washington and West Virginia, law enforcement asks land owners to call them to pick up those vehicles, especially when visible from the street.

The apple producer

Also named the Evergreen State, Washington produces more apples than any other state in the union. It also has some other important, car-related landmarks, such as the oldest gas station in the U.S., located in Zillah and opened in 1922 - while nowadays it is kept only as an attraction, it is part of motoring history. Also, among those three million cars that bear WA plates, there are a lot of relics, or soon-to-be relics, which are constantly abandoned either on public or private properties.

Photo: John Loyd/wikimedia
Regardless of the situation, authorities consider a vehicle abandoned if left on a property for more than 24 hours. To certify that, an officer will place a notice on that vehicle stating the time and date, and, 24 hours later, they'll come back and remove the relic. If that vehicle is a public nuisance, it will be removed immediately. Local enforcement agencies will try to contact the last registered owner and, if any reasonable attempt fails, the towing company will sell the vehicle at an auction, and the purchaser will get all the documents to title it in their name.

But suppose someone bought a property and found an abandoned vehicle somewhere on their land. Since they bought the property in all of its integrity, owners might want to go for a bonded title. They must try to contact the former owner either by certified mail with a return receipt request, or by first-class mail. If neither of these works, they have to try with a notification in the local newspaper. If neither of these has an answer, they may go for a bonded title procedure. Yes, that will put a "bonded" stamp on the papers, which will stay there for three years. Also, they must not try to sell the vehicle without having the title in their hands, as that is considered a gross misdemeanor.

Too West from Virginia

With 75 percent of its land covered by forests, West Virginia is one of those lands that make you feel good and breathe fresh air. No wonder the average age here is 40! A lot of people are moving here on retirement, away from noisy New York or cold Alaska. With less than 2 million inhabitants and the lowest crime index in the country, it is a choice for many. But here, there are about one million cars registered, and not all of them in running order.

In Virginia, land owners can put their name on the title for a vehicle found on their property. While it might not be as easy as ordering a hamburger, it is not as complicated as in West Virginia state. Still, with the proper papers, people can claim an abandoned vehicle as their own under certain conditions. Generally, people have up to 30 days to contact the police and report the vehicle.

Yugo_Sport abandoned
Photo: Christopher Ziemnowicz/Wikimedia
The police will ask a towing service to remove a vehicle parked for more than 24 hours in a public place. It doesn't matter if it's on the hard shoulder, or on a street. The owner of that vehicle left unattended must recover it in up to five days. After that, they will have to pay for towing and storage facilities. Police will send them a notification with a return receipt request, and if contact fails the car will end up either under the hammer at an auction or inside a crusher for recycling.

But, in any situation, anyone who finds a vehicle rotting on their land should try and read the VIN placed on the driver's side. Then, ask the police for help to track the last known owner and send them a notification.
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram

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

About the author: Tudor Serban
Tudor Serban profile photo

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.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories