Can A Person Legally Just Take An Abandoned Car In New York State?
If you are driving on any interstate throughout New York State, you are guaranteed to see an abandoned car on the side of the road. I mean, my heart goes out to people whose rides die at the most inconvenient time or have a blowout. I can't imagine trying to figure out what to do at that moment. Sometimes, people just give up. Maybe their car isn't worth it, maybe it's just too difficult to go back to some out-of-the-way shoulder area on a desolate highway, or maybe it's just too damn expensive. Whatever the reason is that people don't collect their cars from wherever they abandoned them, can you legally claim an abandoned car? According to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles,
First contact the local authority that has jurisdiction over the abandoned vehicle. Local authorities are authorized to take custody of any abandoned vehicle in their jurisdiction, whether abandoned on public or private property.
So legally, the first step is to call the local authorities. Then, it will be up to them to remove the vehicle, or not,
If the local authority does not choose to exercise its authority to take custody and ownership of the abandoned vehicle, you may do one of the following, as appropriate:
If the motor vehicle has a wholesale value of $1,250 or less, and is 10 or more model years old and has been abandoned for at least one month you can transfer the vehicle to a registered vehicle dismantler or itinerant vehicle collector.
If the vehicle doesn't meet all three of the requirements listed above, you'll need to call the police to get authorization to have it towed.
Long story short, if you do find an abandoned vehicle AND it meets the requirements above, you'll need to go through some steps in order to claim it and have someone in your Rolodex who is either a registered vehicle dismantler or itinerant vehicle collector, which is basically a person whose business buys junk cars and sells them for parts and scaps. With one of the requirements being that the vehicle must be worth less than $1,250, you probably won't get much money out of turning it over. Now, you could make it a side-hustle to find abandoned vehicles and turn them into junk or salvage businesses.
If the car has been parked on your property and is unclaimed, you can fill out forms to sell the vehicle for scrap. However, just like an abandoned vehicle, there are specific rules. To qualify for the Garageman's Bill of Sale, the wholesale value of the vehicle must be less than $500. Once it is sold, the vehicle will never be able to receive a title again.