Can I Take Ownership of an Abandoned Vehicle on My Property?


Apr 21st, 2022

Can I Take Ownership of an Abandoned Vehicle on My Property?

Abandoned vehicles don’t just take up space unnecessarily, but they’re also an eyesore. It can be incredibly frustrating if someone leaves one on your private property and forgets about it for months, even years. Unfortunately, getting rid of it isn’t always straightforward. 

So, can you just take the car as yours?

To answer your question, no, you cannot take ownership of an abandoned vehicle on your property unless you go through a legal process, which is not that easy and will entail some cost on your part. 

Whether you’re dealing with abandoned vehicles in ACT, NSW or any other state, your challenges will be pretty much the same. This guide will help you understand abandoned cars and what you can do about them.

Let’s get started.

What Is an Abandoned Vehicle?

Let’s take a step back and clarify a few other things. Firstly, we must understand what is or isn’t an abandoned vehicle.

Generally, an abandoned vehicle has been parked in the same spot for an unusual length of time. The challenge here is that there is no fixed duration of how many days or months before a car is considered ‘abandoned’.

Abandoned cars are typically ruined and undrivable for one of two reasons. When the owner parked the car, it was in that condition or became that way from being left there for so long.

Even so, a car parked in the same spot for a few days or even a few months is not necessarily abandoned. There are many reasons why someone might not drive their car for months at a time.

However, if a car is in the same spot with wear and damage beyond reason, then there’s no doubt that it’s abandoned.

So, with those loose definitions, you can now quickly spot and identify abandoned vehicles in Victoria or anywhere else. You’ll often find them in industrial areas or near car workshops (you’ll see why in the next section). 

Of course, you can also find abandoned vehicles left on private property, like at apartment complexes and parking lots.

Why Do People Abandon Their Cars?

Cars are not cheap, whether they’re new or used. So, why do some people abandon vehicles?

Here are a few common reasons why there are many abandoned vehicles:

  1. Can’t fix it: Cars are often abandoned when they break down and are too expensive to fix. The owner may not be so interested in getting an old car repaired if it would cost him nearly as much as the down payment for a new car. That’s also why cars are often abandoned at auto workshops once the owner gets a repair quotation beyond their budget.
  2. Can’t tow it away: Like the reason above, the car might have broken down somewhere far away and towing it costs too much. For example, a car might break down while you’re driving cross-country, and towing it home will cost more than the car’s value.
  3. Car was stolen or used for a crime: Sometimes, the vehicle might be abandoned by someone other than the rightful owner. Criminals often steal cars to use in committing other crimes. Once they’re done, they’ll dump the car to cover their tracks.
  4. Owner is gone or dead: Sadly, even high-priced cars can also be abandoned. If it’s not for any of the reasons above, it could be because the owner has left the country or has died. 

So, the next time you see abandoned vehicles in QLD or elsewhere, you can assume that it’s there for one of the reasons listed above.

Can You Take Ownership of An Abandoned Car on Your Property?

Let's get this nagging question out of the way: No, you cannot take ownership of abandoned vehicles on private property. Even though you might be the rightful owner of the property where the car is parked, you must never forget that you’re not the rightful owner of the vehicle itself.

Taking ownership of an abandoned vehicle is not as straightforward as people think. Even in this day and age, you’ll still find abandoned vehicles in NSW and every other part of the country. 

The same is also true elsewhere globally, even in the most well-developed nations. Abandoned vehicles are a reality wherever you go, and even the ugliest and most rusted ones have a rightful owner.

In other words, the last person who owned the vehicle is the only person who can legally drive the car away or have it removed.

So, does it mean the car stays there forever? Luckily, no, there are remedies to this stressful situation.

Dealing with Abandoned Vehicles Legally

Here’s what you should do. The first thing is to report the car to your local government and police, who will try to contact the rightful owner. 

If nothing happens after that, you can take another step further to get rid of the vehicle through an auction, but only once you have the authority (more about this below) to do that. Only then can you move it away, tear it for parts, or even sell it to your local car wrecker

The process differs depending on where you live, but it begins with you reporting that car to the local authorities. 

What to Do About an Abandoned Car on Your Property

So, what do you do about an abandoned car on your property? Well, unfortunately, the process is not universal. It depends on local rules and regulations, but it also depends on how helpful the local authorities might be.

1. Best-Case (Easiest) Scenario

In the best-case scenario, you can simply call a towing company to remove the abandoned vehicle and take it off your hands. 

Unfortunately, not all towing companies are willing to do that for you. Many of them will only act on instructions from the vehicle’s legal owner.

The towing company could get in serious trouble if they remove the car without the legal owner's permission, even on private property.

Still, for the towing companies that can help you out, a quick phone call to them is all you need to get rid of the car.

2. Typical Scenario

The more likely scenario involves reporting abandoned vehicles to your local authorities, particularly local police and local government.

There are a few things that the authorities can do. 

Firstly, the police will check if the car’s been used in a crime. Or, the local government will see if the vehicle is abandoned on public property. In those two situations, they’ll likely remove the car for you.

However, if the car is owned by someone and parked on your private property, they can’t do too much. The most likely outcome is they’ll find and contact the last registered owner and tell them to remove the car.

Still, that’s no guarantee of the owners claiming their abandoned vehicles in NSW or anywhere else.

If that’s your case, check on the next step.

3. Uncollected Goods Certificate

Thankfully, you can get an Uncollected Goods Certificate from your local government. Sometimes known as an Abandoned Goods Certificate, getting one gives you the authority to get rid of an abandoned car on your property.

The requirements to get that certificate will differ between areas. For instance, you can qualify for it in some areas if the car’s been abandoned for more than 3 months.

Once you have that certificate, you can then sell the vehicle through an abandoned vehicles auction to sell the car and get it off your property.

As you’ve seen above, the rules and regulations vary between states and territories. To find more information for dealing with abandoned cars in your area, you may check the following links:

You can learn more about this and other topics related to Aussie car owners at CarpartAU.

By Ray Hasbollah