You Can Get an Abandoned Vehicle by Court Order in Pennsylvania, Not in Rhode Island

These states too are having trouble with the abandoned cars. While Pennsylvania is large enough to store them, Rhode Island has to be more careful, since it's the smallest U.S. state and forests cover almost 60 percent of its surface.
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Pennsylvania and Rhode Island were among the thirteen states that signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, at the Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Still, if the two had the same principles back then, there are some differences nowadays, and the way these states deal with abandoned cars is entirely different.

The state of independence

Out of 50 states, Pennsylvania was the first to list its website on its license plates. In Pittsburg, they opened the first automobile service station in 1913. I bet they had even worse roads than today, so stop complaining. In 1958, at the State College Area High School, people started to teach driver education. But I bet they didn't tell students not to abandon their cars on the side of the road, as some are doing it nowadays.

That led us to find out what is an abandoned car in PA. Authorities consider that if a vehicle is left unattended on private property for more than 24 hours, lacking some essential parts, or vandalized, it is one. But if it is parked on public property, then that time extends to 48 hours, as long as it doesn't impend traffic or put anyone else in danger. In that situation, a towing service will remove the junk immediately, with police blessing.

Photo: davea/AACA Forums
With laws allowing landowners to take abandoned vehicles in their possession, there is no wonder there is a mega stockpile of rare cars in Pennsylvania. But firstly, those who want to claim ownership of an abandoned vehicle must go through some steps.

They might start by doing a title search on to find the owner of the relic that sits on their lawn. Then, the petitioner has to send a notification by certified mail with a return receipt request. The letter must contain the vehicle's description, including VIN, make, model, and color. It also must be specified where they filed the petition for a court order.

Suppose the return receipt came back with an "Unclaimed" answer. In that case, the petitioner must publish at least one announcement in the legal county journal(s), and at least once a week for three consecutive weeks in a newspaper published in the area where the registered owner (or a person who might claim interest) resides, and in the county where the vehicle is located. If these two counties are different, then notices will be posted in both areas. Only after these steps are followed, the petition might go forward and reach the final round at the court. If the judge approves it, the petitioner must pay all the taxes and fees and comply with any other procedures of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation to receive the Certificate of Title for said vehicle.

L'il Rhodie with long shores

Rhode Island is the smallest state in the U.S. We all know that. Here, at Ocean State, they banned race racing on the highway. Even though it is just 37 miles (59.5 km) wide and 48 miles (77.3 km) long, it does have highways where police found abandoned cars from time to time, and they are not happy with that. Here, the government has a strict policy about these situations.

In Rhode Island, a vehicle is considered abandoned if it is older than eight years, inoperable, missing essential parts, and left on public property for more than 48 hours. If it is in someone's yard, though, they can wait up to three days. So, remember, folks, if you encounter some problem with your car, watch where you leave it. Although, entering private property without the owner's consent is never a good idea.

In Rhode Island, police have the authority to take possession of an abandoned vehicle found on private or public property. Moreover, the owner of that land cannot interfere with police entering the property to tow the car away. At least, after picking the relic, police might auction it either as junk or as a vehicle, to be restored. The good news is that the car will come with a clean title, free from any liens applied before.
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Editor's note: The information in this article is not legal advice; for any info regarding abandoned vehicles rules, 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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