Filing for an abandoned vehicle title with the DMV can be a challenge. It is often difficult to get a vehicle declared abandoned, and even more challenging to complete the process of applying for an abandoned vehicle title. If abandoned vehicles are a safety hazard and a liability, why does the DMV make it so difficult to go through the abandoned vehicle process?

Imagine a scenario where you walk out of your home to start your day, and your vehicle is missing from your driveway. No signs of a break-in, or theft, just simply missing. You call the police to report your car as stolen, but you’re shocked when they tell you that you can’t file for a stolen vehicle because your vehicle is no longer in your name.

This is exactly what happened in Virginia back in 2018 to unsuspecting vehicle owners in a quiet neighborhood. According to an article by Karina Bolster from NBC12, Richmond police responded to a number of reports regarding abandoned vehicle fraud. Due to relaxed abandoned vehicle laws at the time, it was much easier to file for an abandoned vehicle. A group of fraudsters went around Richmond neighborhoods, writing down the VINs of certain brand vehicles, and reporting them as abandoned. Once the abandoned process began, the DMV would send notices to the vehicle owners, but unfortunately, not all of them received them in time only to find that their vehicle was stolen right from under their noses. For the vehicle owners who contacted the DMV to stop the process, their vehicles were safe. For those who did not stop the process because they were unaware, the fraudsters would get new keys created from dealerships in order to simply drive away with the car once the process is finished.

The DMV makes the process of filing an abandoned vehicle difficult to prevent title fraud and situations like this one. An abandoned vehicle process is much different than title recovery or applying for a new title. If you are applying for an abandoned vehicle, you do not have a bill of sale, prior title, or any other ownership documents available, so the DMV is essentially just taking your word for it. Because of this, they now require certain procedures to be completed prior to the approval of the process. The typical abandoned vehicle process can take 30 days to up to 6 months or more to be completed.

An abandoned vehicle is one where the vehicle owner has dumped the vehicle with no intention of returning to claim it. Typically, if you know where the vehicle came from or who it belongs to, it’s not an abandoned vehicle. There are many ways to claim a vehicle that is abandoned on your property, the first thing to do is to avoid calling the vehicle abandoned. Depending on the jurisdiction, referring to the vehicle as abandoned to the DMV or law enforcement will automatically trigger the removal and disposal of the vehicle. In many states, you cannot get a title for an abandoned vehicle without going through an auction process.

What other title options are available for vehicles with limited or no paperwork?

If you’d like to title an abandoned vehicle, you may want to consider other title recovery methods before proceeding with an abandoned vehicle process. Depending on the amount of paperwork you have, one of the following title recovery methods may be available:

Court-ordered title

A court-ordered title may be a valuable alternative to an abandoned vehicle process. A court-ordered title can be applied for by filing a court case with your local county or circuit court to declare you as the vehicle owner. This is often the last resort title recovery method, but it is a great choice if you are missing most or all of the ownership paperwork. This is not legal advice, before using this method, be sure to obtain good legal advice for success in your county and state.

Bonded title process

A bonded title may be a valuable alternative if you live in a state that allows for this method. A bonded title requires you to obtain a surety bond to secure the title of the vehicle. Obtaining the surety bond releases liability from the DMV in the event that there is an ownership discrepancy over the vehicle.

There are situations where it’s necessary to file for an abandoned vehicle title and others where another form of title recovery may be better. If you’d like to keep the vehicle, consider looking into alternate methods of title recovery.