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Tracking Down An Impounded Car


My uncle, now deceased, was a hoarder and owned a handful of cars that were impounded a year or two ago. I have clear titles to all of these cars. Is there any way to track them down? The police were no help. I understand that if I do find them, the storage fees would be exorbitant.


In order to impound them the police had to have authority to do so. That means a court had to authorize it. Check court records around the time the vehicles were impounded for his name. You might also look in the phone book for impound lots and see if they have the cars. There may be a time limit after which the cars can be auctioned. Check with the local state attorney’s office to see what the time limit is.

Since the police had to participate in impounding the cars, it is odd that they can’t help you. They must (absolutely must) have records. Otherwise, they could be accused of theft. Try them again. You must have been talking to the wrong people.

I wonder if CarFax would have any info?

It really depends on where you are. Some cities have their own impound lots and some use local towing companies and their lots. The cars are only kept for a short time and then are sold to recover the impound and storage costs. These most likely are long gone by now. You can check with the city to see who they use for impounding but you also should be able to check the VINs with DMV to see who owns the cars now.

If these cars were sold,wouldnt the DMV have a record of the transaction?I see Bing has already metioned this,if they went to the recycler would the titles have been destroyed?-Kevin

Sorry to tell this those cars are long gone. After 30-90 days they were sold. DMV maybe able to tell you who they were sold to.

A year ago???

Those vehicles were either sold at auction or were sent to a salvage yard.

And if they were sold, you almost certainly have no legal right to them. You can check to make sure, but they are likely untouchable.

I don’t know that he has a legal right to them. He says he has a clear title…He didn’t say that he’s the owner of the titles…just that he has them.

Actually holding the title will give him the right to recover the sales value minus the storage fees. The cars will not have a “clean” title in most states. As an exercise in the letter of the law, he has rights, but… The state cannot unreasonably take any property without compensation. So it begs the question why were the cars impounded? Unpaid property or excise tax? But in law a title to a car is like title to land. It must be surrendered to be sold unless it is marked as a tax sale.

Its probably academic at this point, but I’m not sure I agree titles must be surrendered. A mechanics lien allows the holding of a vehicle and sale regardless of who holds the title. In Minneapolis cars are impounded all the time in the winter for parking violations, and sold in 60-90 days if the towing and fees aren’t paid. Doesn’t matter if a bank has the lien or a clear title. Treated the same as a Sheriffs sale so I suppose that could be seen as a “tax sale”. Really, once a car is impounded, the only thing the title provides for you is the opportunity to pay all the costs to get it back. If a car is illegally parked, it can be impounded. (Also if transporting drugs or ducks out of season, best to do it in an old car.)

I suspect what happened is the cars were eyesores and the city ordered them moved. When they weren’t moved, the city or property owner had them moved, and no one ever bailed them out again.

Actually thats pretty much what I said. Again as an actual letter of law issue not the way people live it, No one pays a lawyer 1000$ to recover a car that will cost them money to get out of the impound or whatever. You can actually reverse a tax sale BTW if they did not get the paperwork right.

If they were sold, do you expect the buyer to just willingly hand over the keys to the car because you have the title to it?

After a period of time, the storage lot can apply and get new titles in their name and do what they want with the cars…This time period is usually 90 days…

Unregistered and “abandoned” motor vehicles can be swept away with very little paper trail…A supervisor at the DMV can run the VIN’s and tell you who they were last titled to…Bring those old titles with you…