Vermont and Virginia Found Easy Ways Out of the Abandoned Car Mess

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Photo: Gullwing Motor Cars/YouTube
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Ever since we started this series of articles about how to title an abandoned vehicle, we told you that Vermont is a very good place to live in, and now we'll tell you why. Also, in Virginia, local authorities understood that by helping people claim abandoned relics from their property they'd ease the pressure on law enforcement agencies.
Vermont and Virginia are both located on the East side of the country, not far from each other. It's a half an hour drive from Montpelier to Richmond. Maybe that's one of the reasons why they share several ideas, including their relaxed policy on abandoned cars. Yet, Virginia is somehow stricter, even if not as much as other states, such as Hawaii, for instance.

On the green mountain

Before joining the Union as the 14th state, Vermont was an independent republic. Here, you can find the smallest capital in the U.S., Montpelier, with less than 9,000 citizens. Since it's not a big state, it is no wonder that there are less than 250,000 registered cars (229,570 according to 2016 statistics). While here is one of the easiest ways to claim an abandoned vehicle, that would be a rust bucket due to the moist air.

While not many people would be dancing if they found a Saturn Ion in their barns, others would jump at a 1966 Buick Wildcat. First of all, in Vermont, a vehicle is considered abandoned if left unattended for 48 hours, regardless if it is on public or private property. Only a law enforcement officer may remove it from public property by calling a towing service, but they must supervise the procedure. Land owners may ask a tower to take that trash out, but must inform the local police.

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Photo: Gullwing Motor Cars/YouTube
The DMV will try to find the last known owner of the vehicle and send them a notification via certified mail with a return receipt requested within three days, and will wait for seven days. After that, local authorities will try again by first class mail and wait for another 21 days. Finally, if there's still no answer, or the owner fails or refuses to claim the vehicle, the DMV will issue a Certificate of Abandoned Motor Vehicle.

But here's the catch with Vermont. This state does not require a title for vehicles older than 15 years. They will register any car to those who could show evidence of possession, and that might be a bill of sale signed by someone who claims they are the previous owner. With that in hand, the new owner, or land owner who discovered the car in their barns, may claim registration.

Then, after having it in their name, they can ask for a title for use outside Vermont. Thus, that vehicle may come out with a clean title, sold, and registered in other states where that paper is required. This procedure is called the "Vermont loophole," and it still works. Worth mentioning that if a valid previous owner claims the car, there's gonna be trouble. But as long as the DMV tried to find the previous owner and couldn't, there are slim chances that they are still among us, breathing or dancing.

The Old Dominion

Virginia is known as "the birthplace of a nation" and was part of the first 13 colonies. But not everything went silky-smoot here after blight destroyed the mulberry trees and left the silkworms without food. Thus, they started to grow tobacco, and that continues until today. It made Virginia a prosperous state where more than 8.3 million people are breathing every day, and there are 3.2 million cars here, including those used for the Pentagon, which, of course, is in VA.

Even though it's another state, Virginia shares some of its ideas regarding abandoned cars with Vermont. Like in VT, here, a vehicle is considered abandoned if it's left unattended for at least 48 hours with license plates on it or with a visible VIN. Cover the chassis serial number and take the license plates, and it instantly becomes an abandoned vehicle. A police officer may have it removed either on public or private property.

Pentagon building in Arlington VA
Photo: Mariordo Camila Ferreira & Mario Duran/Wikimedia
A land owner may claim property for a car in exchange for a lien. But first, they must obtain the address of the last registered owner from the Virginia DMV. Then, the landowner must send a certified mail with a return receipt request if the owner is out of state. If they're in Virginia, the DMV will try to contact them to remove the junk from the landowner's yard within 15 days. If there's still no answer, the landowner may register online on DMV and post the intent to sell the vehicle after 21 days. When that is done, the land owner may title the car under their name, continue with an auction, sell it, scrap or restore it.

Thus, these two states found an easy way to deal with abandoned cars, which helps the authorities clean the highways and scenery faster than elsewhere.
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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
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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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