Obtaining title to an "abandoned" car (NY & FL)

Original thread:


(in summary, someone left us with a car last registered in FL, has left the country, and doesn’t care about the car, or helping us get the title)


Well, its been another year and a half and the car is still sitting here! It looks pretty hopeless… in NY, the state does have to seize it, and then we would have to try our luck at the auction. However, I’ve come up with two other options and wanted to run them by the forum.

1. I looked up the VIN through Florida DMV, and there is still a lein holder listed on the title… some company in TX. Would it be a good idea to contact them and try to get the title through them? At worst, I suppose they could demand an unreasonable amount of money for the title, and we have it hauled away. (and we can just have it junked w/o a title as a last resort).

2. We get a third party involved who lives in a state that conducts lien sales. We know several people in CA who would do this for us. Only, the car is still in NY. The CA paperwork does allow for cars last registered out of state, but it doesn’t say anything about the car having to be in CA.


Given the existence of the lien, I would let the state seize it and deal with the disposal/sale. The lienholder could demand from you the full unsatisfied amount, to gain title transfer.

I think it is best to walk away, here.

If there’s a lien on the car it will have to be paid before the title is released.

If the car has been sitting for a year and a half you’re likely to have trouble with it once you start trying to drive it, which may cost money to fix.

I’d say it’s time to give up and let the junk man haul it away.

Now you know why the owner didn’t mind walking away from the car.

That is looking more like the option. Its a '97 Ford with around 90kmi… not in bad shape. It’d be a shame to junk it and I’m confident I could fix any initial problems. We are considering “the nuclear option”, and making the phone call that will cause it to go away.

There could very well be a balance left on the lien… it would explain the previous owner’s lack of interest in helping us get title. The lien is/was held by a company in Ft. Worth, TX. A quick google search indicated some customer dissatisfaction with them.

I don’t know that this is necessarily the case in your state, but here’s some typical procedures.

First off, with the lien, yes you are going to have to get them to release the lien. Probably the best strategy would be to call them up and figure out what the amount of the lien is and then offer them some sort of token amount for a release, telling them take it or leave it, you’re just fine having the thing crushed, etc. There’s a good chance they won’t go for it, but they’re really holding all the cards and chances are if you can convince them it’s your pittance or nothing, they may well go for it (don’t let slip where the car is, BTW!). It’s not surprising that there’s negative reviews online because companies that put liens on things are inherently going to be making enemies, even if they were 100% even handed in the situation which led to the lien.

Anyways, assuming you can get that cleared up, you’ll probably have to get a bonded title. Basically, you provide some sort of statement of fact that the car has been abandoned on your property, etc, and the state will issue you a provisional title for the car and you’ll have to put up a bond equal to the amount of the book value of the vehicle, which the state will hold for some period of time (usually around 5 years). Usually you’ll get this from a bondsman for a fee. If the titled owner doesn’t show up after that period, they give your bond back and issue a free and clear title, though in some states it will be automatically be a salvage title.

So there’s a lot of hassle and expense associated with it as well as risk if the original owner does show up wanting her car back. And, like I said, there’s no guarantee this is exactly how it works in your particular state-- I think there’s some states that make it much easier and some that make it basically impossible.

Also, if the original owner can be communicated with, many states have procedures where she can do a title transfer in absentia. But you’d still have to clear up the lien.