Laws on Abandoned Vehicles in New York State

Laws on Abandoned Vehicles in New York State
An old abandoned vehicle by the side of the road.

Abandoned Vehicles on Public Property

If a vehicle is abandoned on public property, it may be removed more quickly than if it is abandoned on private property. New York law provides that a vehicle without tags left unattended on public property for a mere six hours is considered an abandoned vehicle. A car with tags can sit on the side of a highway or other similar public place for 24 hours before it will be declared abandoned. If the same car initially is legally parked, but the permissible parking time lapses, New York law classifies it as abandoned if it remains unattended for 48 hours.

Distinguishing Abandoned and Unclaimed Vehicles

An abandoned vehicle was left on your property for no reason and without your permission. However, if you own a garage or similar automotive shop and a customer left a car with you for repair and then failed to return, New York law classifies that car as an unclaimed rather than abandoned vehicle. The law sets out a different procedure for removing an unclaimed vehicle from your property that involves filing a Garageman's Lien.

Vehicles Without License Tags

If the abandoned vehicle doesn't have license tags and is worth less than $1,250 wholesale, it immediately becomes the property of the municipality where it sits. The vehicle may be sold at public auction, but will more likely be scrapped. If it holds more than $1,250 in wholesale value, local authorities will contact the state Department of Motor Vehicles in an attempt to find the last owner. If the car's owner is found, he has 10 days to claim his property before it's sold at public auction.

Vehicles With License Tags

Regardless of its wholesale value, if an abandoned car has tags, authorities find the last owner of the car through the jurisdiction that issued the plates. That owner is notified and has 10 days to retrieve his car. Assuming the owner doesn't claim his property, authorities will determine if it's drivable. If it is, it will be sold at public auction. Otherwise, it will be sold for scrap.

Vehicles Abandoned on Private Property

Only local police are authorized to remove an abandoned vehicle, regardless of whether it was abandoned on public or private property. As a result, if you find an abandoned car on your property, call the police first. However, if the car is old or extremely damaged, police may decline to take the car off your hands. You can dispose of the vehicle yourself if your local authority has refused to take title to it. The vehicle must be worth $1.250 or less, be 10 or more model years old and abandoned for at least one month. The New York DMV then provides a form for you to fill out and give to whoever dismantles the car. This form states the vehicle may never be titled again and must be scrapped.