Though the process varies by state, the process of claiming and titling an abandoned vehicle usually requires cooperation between the DMV and local law enforcement. This is to ensure that the vehicle is genuinely abandoned, rather than lost or stolen.
- Contact law enforcement
The first step in claiming an abandoned vehicle is to check with a local law enforcement agency to ensure the vehicle is not stolen. The police are able to search for theft reports using the car's license plate number or vehicle identification number. For a vehicle to be claimed by a third party, it must not have been stolen.
- Post a public notice of intent
Once theft is ruled out, it is usually necessary to take out an advertisement in a print publication announcing intent to claim the vehicle. This gives the previous owner 30 or 60 days, depending on state laws, to reclaim the vehicle. If nobody claims the vehicle by the end of the waiting period, law enforcement usually issues a notice of abandoned property.
- Request a new title from the DMV
Take the declaration of abandoned property to the DMV and ask for the forms to request a new title. It is usually necessary to pay a filing fee, which varies by state. Once the forms are accepted, the DMV issues a new title.