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Abandoned Motor Vehicles

An abandoned motor vehicle §(46.2-1200) can be defined as a motor vehicle, trailer or semitrailer that:

  • is left unattended on public property for more than 48 hours, in violation of a state law or local ordinance, or
  • has remained more than 48 hours on private property without the consent of the property owner, regardless of whether it was brought onto the private property with the consent of the owner or person in control of the private property, or
  • is left unattended on the shoulder of a primary highway

Eligible individuals, businesses and government agencies (or their authorized agent) in possession of an abandoned vehicle can initiate a search for the vehicle's owner and/or lienholder of record by using DMV's online Abandoned Vehicle Process which complies with the statutory requirements for handling a vehicle abandoned in Virginia (§ 46.2-1202).

Description of Process

A record request search is initiated by entering the vehicle identification number (VIN) and paying a $25.00 Abandoned Vehicle Process (AVP) fee. If the results of the record search indicate the vehicle is titled in Virginia, DMV sends a certified letter to the owners/lienholders requesting removal of the vehicle within 15 days (120 days for a manufactured home). If the vehicle is titled in another state, you must contact the other state to request the owner/lienholder names in order to send a certified letter to them (return receipt requested) requesting removal of the vehicle within 15 days (120 days for a manufactured home).

If the owners/lienholders of the abandoned vehicle do not respond to the request to remove the vehicle in the time allowed, you return to DMV's website to post your intent to auction the vehicle. The intent to auction posting remains active for 21 days. After the posting period ends, you are eligible to title the vehicle, sell it, or transfer it to a demolisher or scrap metal processor. If no record was found for the vehicle during the record request search, you may choose to transfer the vehicle to a demolisher or scrap metal processor without posting intent to auction, but if you choose to title the vehicle, you must post your intent to auction and wait 21 days.

If the person in possession of the abandoned vehicle is applying for title, the following must be submitted to DMV:

  1. Application for Certificate of Title (VSA 17A), or Application for Certificate of Title-Manufactured Home (VSA 17B)
  2. Vehicle Removal Certificate (VSA 40),
  3. Abandoned Vehicle Record Request Receipt (from online record request search)
    • If the record request receipt indicates that the vehicle is not titled in Virginia, signed certified mail receipt(s) proving delivery of the letter notifying owners/lienholders of the intent to dispose of the abandoned vehicle. If the certified mail is returned as "undeliverable", attach the UNOPENED certified mail to the record request receipt.
  4. Appropriate fees and vehicle registration requirements (i.e. insurance) if the vehicle is to be registered.

If the person in possession of the abandoned vehicle sells or transfers the vehicle to a demolisher or scrap metal processor, he must provide the following to the purchaser, demolisher or scrap metal processor:

  1. Vehicle Removal Certificate (VSA 40)
  2. Abandoned Vehicle Record Request Receipt (and documentation referenced in # 3 above, if applicable)

Locality Process

The county, city or town, where a vehicle is abandoned may take custody of the vehicle, and sell it at public auction or transfer it to a licensed demolisher or scrap metal processor to dispose of it, based on local ordinances (§ 46.2-1201).

In the absence of a local ordinance, localities are required to use DMV's online abandoned vehicle process described above. However, if the locality transfers an inoperable vehicle directly to a demolisher (§ 46.2-1205), or intends to apply to DMV for locality reimbursement for an inoperable vehicle (§ 46.2-1207), the locality is not eligible to use DMV's online abandoned vehicle process, and must submit a Local Government Reimbursement for Inoperable Vehicle Disposition (VSA 122) to DMV to record the disposition of the inoperable vehicle.

Abandoned Vehicle Frequently Asked Questions

For more information about the abandoned vehicle process, refer to the Abandoned Vehicle FAQ's.

Online Abandoned Vehicle Process

To access the online abandoned vehicle process, refer to online AVP.