Abandoned and unclaimed vehicles

How do I dispose of an abandoned or unclaimed vehicle?

There are specific definitions of an abandoned and an unclaimed vehicle. Determine which definition applies to you, then see instructions: 

  • An abandoned vehicle is a motor vehicle that has been left unattended on the property of another for more than 96 hours, if it was left without the permission of the owner.

  • An unclaimed vehicle is a motor vehicle, other than an impounded vehicle, that is being held by an automotive-related business and that may be lawfully released by the business to the customer upon payment for the reasonable charges for repairs, towing, and/or storage, as applicable. If an automotive-related business tows or stores an abandoned vehicle at the request of a police officer, and the local authority does not choose to exercise its right to take custody and ownership of the vehicle as prescribed by §1224 of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law, then such motor vehicle will be considered an unclaimed vehicle.

Note: Before you dispose of an unclaimed or abandoned vehicle, contact your local police agency to verify that the vehicle has not been reported as stolen.


Dispose of an abandoned vehicle

First contact the local authority 1 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.

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. Use the Statement of Abandoned Vehicle (PDF) (MV-37). To calculate the first eligible model year, subtract 9 from the current calendar year. For example, 2010 minus 9 equals 2001, and eligible model years would be 2001 and older.

If the motor vehicle does not meet all of the preceding requirements, ask your local police agency to give a towing company an authorization to tow the vehicle away from your property.


Dispose of an unclaimed vehicle

You may dispose of an unclaimed vehicle by following the appropriate procedures for filing a Garageman's Lien. The procedures are described in the Instructions and Requirements for Filing New York State Garageman's Liens (PDF) (MV-901C) .

If you are filing a Garageman's Lien for unpaid charges for towing and storage, and the wholesale value of the motor vehicle is less than $500, you can use the abbreviated procedure described in the Instructions and Requirements for Completing MV-901DI (PDF), and the Garageman's Certification and Bill of Sale for Vehicles Worth Less Than $500 (PDF) (MV-901D) .


  1. 1. A local authority is the city, town, or village in which a vehicle is abandoned (a county may act as the agent for a local authority within that county). However, if a vehicle is abandoned on property owned by the New York State Thruway Authority, the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the New York State Department of Transportation, or a local authority or commission, such authority or commission is the local authority.