Instructions for Owners


Definition of an abandoned vehicle or vessel

Abandoned vehicle or vessel has a slightly different meaning than what is generally understood. According to state statute, abandoned vehicle or vessel applies not only to the "junkers" that are dumped on the roadside, but vehicles or vessels on private or public property that have been removed either by request of the property owner or because the vehicle or vessel was parked or left in violation of a law. 

A vehicle or vessel may be considered abandoned when it is:

  • A vehicle or vessel on private property without the consent of the owner.
  • A vehicle or vessel that has remained on public property for not less than 48 hours.
  • A vehicle that has remained on a state trunk line for not less than 18 hours if a valid registration  plate is affixed to the vehicle
  • A vehicle that has remained on a state trunk line if a valid registration plate is not affixed to the vehicle.
  • A vessel that has remained on a state trunk line and is not on a motor vehicle or trailer and is not under the immediate custody of the owner
  • A vessel on a motor vehicle or trailer if the motor vehicle or trailer displays a valid registration plate and has been on a state trunk line for no less than 18 hours and is not under the immediate custody of the owner.

Also, a vehicle or vessel removed under the following conditions is considered abandoned if not redeemed by the owner within seven days:

  • If the vehicle of vessel is in such a condition that the operation of it will constitute an immediate hazard to the public.
  • If the vehicle of vessel is parked or idling on the highway so that it creates an immediate public hazard or an obstruction of traffic.
  • If the vehicle or vessel is parked in a posted tow-away zone.
  • Removal of a vehicle or vessel is necessary if it is a threat to public safety because its presence impedes rescue efforts during fire, flood, storm, snow, natural or man-made disaster, or other emergency.
  • If the vehicle or vessel is hampering the use of private property by the owner or person in charge of that property or is parked in a manner that impedes the movement of another vehicle or vessel.
  • If the vehicle or vessel is Illegally stopped, idling, or parked in a designated disability parking space.
  • If the vehicle of vessel is located in a clearly identified access aisle or access lane immediately adjacent to a disability parking space.
  • If the vehicle or vessel is Interfering with the use of a ramp or a curb-cut by people with disabilities.
  • If the vessel is submerged in, partially submerged in, or floating unanchored or untethered upon a public waterway.

A vehicle removed under the following conditions is considered abandoned if not redeemed by the owner within 20 days from the date of release by the law enforcement agency:

  • If the vehicle or vessel is believed to be stolen.
  • If the vehicle or vessel is seized to preserve evidence of a crime.
  • If the vehicle or vessel is involved in a crash.

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Claiming an abandoned vehicle or vessel

When an abandoned vehicle or vessel is taken into custody, the owner and any secured party (most often a lending institution) are notified by mail of the vehicle or vessel's status and location.  To claim an abandoned vehicle or vessel, as the owner you must:

  • Visit the custodian (police agency, towing agency, or municipal impound lot) holding the vehicle or vessel within 20 days of receiving notice. The custodian may be found on the abandoned vehicle or vessel notice you received in the mail or by entering the vehicle's identification number (VIN) or license plate number on the Michigan Auto Lost & Found Website. Please contact the Abandoned Vehicle Help Desk at 517-636-5234 for assistance regarding an abandoned vessel or snowmobile. The custodian may ask for proof of ownership (title or registration).
  • Pay any towing and storage fees, including the $40 abandoned fee.

If you do not redeem the vehicle or vessel, or request a hearing within 20 days, the secured party may obtain release of the vehicle or vessel by paying the towing, storage, and abandoned fee.

If you or the secured party do not redeem the vehicle or vessel, it may be sold at public auction, and you lose all rights to the vehicle or vessel.  Public notice will be published at least five days before the sale in a newspaper within the county where the vehicle or vessel was abandoned.

SOS FAQs

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To contest the status or towing and storage fees of an abandoned vehicle or vessel

You may challenge whether your vehicle or vessel was properly deemed abandoned or the reasonableness of the towing and storage fees by filing a petition with the court having jurisdiction over the location from which the vehicle or vessel was removed.

A petition can be filed with the appropriate court either by mail or in person and must be filed within 20 days from the date you first received notice in the mail.  A copy of the petition is included with the notice or may be obtained by completing a PETITION REGARDING IMPOUNDMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLE OR SEIZURE OF MOTORCYCLE (DC-90) form. 

An owner who requests a hearing may obtain release of the vehicle or vessel by posting a towing and storage bond with the court, or by paying the abandoned fees to the court and the accrued towing and storage fees to the custodian instead of posting a towing and storage bond.  If the court finds the vehicle or vessel was improperly deemed abandoned or removed, the law enforcement agency will reimburse the owner for the towing, storage, and abandoned fees.

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Penalties for abandoning a vehicle or vessel

Owners who abandon a vehicle or vessel risk fines and penalties. 

Michigan law [MCL 257.252a, 81151, or 82161 2014 PA 549] presumes that the last owner of record as kept by the Secretary of State of a vehicle is responsible for abandoning a vehicle unless the person provides a record of sale or transfer. Michigan law (80130f 2014 PA 549) presumes that the last titled owner, if there is no titled owner the last registered owner of a vessel, is responsible for abandoning a vessel unless the person provides a record of the transfer of the vessel to another person. A violation for abandoning a vehicle and not redeeming it before disposition is determined under MCL 257.252g or Section 81151(3) or Section 82161(3) 2014 PA 549, or for abandoning a vessel and not redeeming it before disposition is determined under Section 80130k, will result in a civil infraction and subject the owner to a civil fine of $50 plus costs, state assessments, and other statutory penalties.

To protect yourself, you must do one of the following, when you sell or transfer ownership of a vehicle or vessel:

  • Accompany the buyer to a Secretary of State branch office to assure that the vehicle's title is transferred.
  • Maintain a record of the sale for at least 18 months. A record of the sale means either a photocopy of the reassigned vehicle or vessel title, reassigned vessel registration,  or a document that includes the name, address, driver's license number, the purchaser's signature, purchase price and date of sale.

If you fail to maintain proper records of the sale, you are subject to the following penalties if a subsequent owner abandons the vehicle:

  • A civil infraction with a fine of $15 plus costs, state assessments and other statutory penalties.
  • Towing and storage fees assessed by the towing agency or custodian of the vehicle or vessel.

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Abandoning a vehicle or vessel is considered "littering"

Yes. A person who abandons a motor vehicle or vessel may also be found responsible for littering under the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act [MCL 324.8905a(4)]. This is a state civil infraction subject to a civil fine from $500 to $2,500 plus costs, state assessments, and other statutory penalties. The penalty for abandoning a second vehicle or vessel is a civil fine from $1,000 to $5,000 plus costs, state assessments, and other statutory penalties.

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How to find the VIN, HIN, or Serial Number

The VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) is a unique identifier assigned to a motor vehicle or ORV and is assigned by the manufacturer. Most vehicles have a 17 character VIN containing both letters and numbers (e.g. 1FMEU19H9SLA23318).

The HIN (Hull Identification Number) is a unique number assigned to a vessel by the manufacturer. A serial number is a unique number assigned to a snowmobile by the manufacturer. The VIN, HIN, or serial number can be found on the motor vehicle's title, registration, or certificate of insurance. They may also be on other documents such as your purchase records, warranty information, or the window sticker. Your insurance company may also have a record of the VIN, HIN, or serial number.

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Glossary of Terms

Abandoned Vehicle or Vessel  

A vehicle or vessel may be considered abandoned when it is:
  • A vehicle or vessel on private property without the consent of the owner.
  • A vehicle or vessel that has remained on public property for not less than 48 hours.
  • A vehicle that has remained on a state trunk line for not less than 18 hours if a valid registration plate is affixed to the vehicle.
  • A vehicle that has remained on a state trunk line if a valid registration plate is not affixed to the vehicle.
  • A vessel that has remained on a state trunk line and is not on a motor vehicle or trailer and is not under the immediate custody of the owner.
  • A vessel on a motor vehicle or trailer if the motor vehicle or trailer displays a valid registration plate and has been on a state trunk line for no less than 18 hours and is not under the immediate custody of the owner.

Also, a vehicle or vessel removed under the following conditions is considered abandoned if not redeemed by the owner within seven days:

  • If the vehicle or vessel is in such a condition that the operation of it will constitute an immediate hazard to the public.

  • If the vehicle or vessel is parked or idling on the highway so that it creates an immediate public hazard or an obstruction of traffic.

  • If the vehicle or vessel is parked in a posted tow-away zone.

  • Removal of a vehicle or vessel is necessary if it is a threat to public safety because its presence impedes rescue efforts during fire, flood, storm, snow, natural or man-made disaster, or other emergency.

  • If the vehicle or vessel is hampering the use of private property by the owner or person in charge of that property or is parked in a manner that impedes the movement of another vehicle or vessel.

  • If the vehicle or vessel is illegally stopped, idling, or parked in a designated disability parking space.

  • If the vehicle or vessel is located in a clearly identified access aisle or access lane immediately adjacent to a disability parking space.

  • If the vehicle or vessel is interfering with the use of a ramp or a curb-cut by people with disabilities.

  • If the vessel is submerged in, partially submerged in, or floating unanchored or untethered upon a public waterway.

A vehicle or vessel removed under the following conditions is considered abandoned if not redeemed by the owner within 20 days from the date of release by the law enforcement agency:

  • If the vehicle or vessel is believed to be stolen.

  • If the vehicle or vessel is seized to preserve evidence of a crime.

  • If the vehicle or vessel is involved in a crash.

Under certain conditions, vehicles or vessels impounded or removed for safekeeping under MCL 257. 252d  or 80130h81151 and 82161 2014 PA 549 may be deemed abandoned.

Custodian

The person or business/legal entity storing an abandoned vehicle or vessel taken into custody. Usually, this is the towing agency.

Dealer

A "dealer" is a person who, in a 12-month period:

  • Engaged in the business of purchasing, selling, exchanging, brokering, leasing, or dealing in vehicles of a type required to be titled, or
  • Engaged in the business of purchasing, selling, exchanging, brokering, or dealing in salvageable parts of five or more vehicles, or
  • Engaged in the business of buying five or more vehicles to sell vehicle parts or process into scrap metal, or
  • Engaged in the actual remanufacturing of engines or transmissions.
  • Who annually purchases from a manufacturer, or who is engaged in selling or manufacturing, 6 or more vessels that require certificates of number. Unlike with vehicle dealers, watercraft dealers are not licensed by the Department.

A dealer does not include a vehicle custodian who has received a vehicle under section MCL 257.252g(3)(a) for the purpose of selling that vehicle to a licensed dealer.

Disposition

The final arrangement for an abandoned vehicle or vessel (sold, redeemed, scrapped or transferred).

EFT

Electronic Funds Transfer.

HIN

Hull Identification Number - A unique identifier for a vessel (watercraft).

Impounded Vehicle or Vessel

Michigan law (MCL 257.252d and 80130h, 81151, and 82161 2014 PA 549) outlines circumstances when a police agency may authorize immediate removal of a vehicle or vessel from private or public property to a place of safekeeping at the owner's expense. The conditions for immediate removal include when the vehicle or vessel is: 

  • Parked or idling on the highway so that it creates an immediate public hazard or an obstruction of traffic.
  • Parked in a posted tow-away zone.
  • A threat to public safety because its presence impedes rescue efforts during fire, flood, storm, snow, natural or man-made disaster or other emergency.
  • Hampering the use of private property by the owner or person in charge of that property or is parked in a manner which impedes the movement of another vehicle or vessel.
  • Illegally stopped, idling or parked in a designated disability parking space.
  • Located in a clearly identified access aisle or access lane immediately adjacent to a disability parking space.
  • Interfering with the use of a ramp or a curb-cut by people with disabilities.
  • Believed to be stolen.
  • Seized to preserve evidence of a crime.
  • Involved in a crash.
  • If the vessel is submerged in, partially submerged in, or floating unanchored or untethered upon a public waterway.

LEIN

Law Enforcement Information Network - a computer network used by law enforcement agencies to exchange information.

Lienholder

An agency or creditor to which an owner has given a pledge of payment or obligation. Also known as a secured party.

Littering

The act of illegally leaving rubbish, refuse, waste material, garbage, offal, paper, glass, cans, bottles, trash, debris, or other foreign substances or a vehicle or vessel that is considered abandoned under MCL 257.252a or 80130f, 81151, 82161 2014 PA 549.

Owner of Record

The person(s) named as owner as kept by the Secretary of State's records.

Petition   

A formal written request made to an official person or organized body (such as a court).

Record of Sale   

A photocopy of the reassigned ownership document (e.g. title or registration) or a document that includes the name, address, driver's license number and signature of the person to whom the vehicle or vessel was sold, along with the purchase price and date of the sale.

Redeemed   

The owner or a secured party has paid all fees and charges and obtained release of the vehicle or vessel from the custodian.

Registered Abandoned Scrap Vehicle or Vessel   

Vehicle or vessel is abandoned, at least seven years old, is inoperable or extensively damaged so that repairing it for safe operation exceeds the fair market value, and is currently registered or titled in Michigan or has a current-year registration plate from another state.

Salvage Vehicle or Vessel 

A vehicle or vessel for which a salvage title has been issued by the Secretary of State.

Scrap Vehicle or Vessel   

A vehicle or vessel with a scrap title issued by the Secretary of State. It may be assigned only to a scrap metal processor, an automotive recycler, used or secondhand vehicle parts dealer, or a foreign salvage vehicle dealer and the second reassignment may only be to a vehicle scrap metal processor.

Secured Party   

An agency or creditor to which an owner has given a pledge of payment or obligation. Also known as lienholder.

Serial Number  A unique identifier for a snowmobile

Signage Requirement

There are specific signage requirements under section 257.252k and 80130o 2014 PA 549, each apartment complex or private real property owner that has a vehicle or vessel removed must have a warning sign posted stating that unauthorized vehicles or vessels will be removed at the owner's expense. The notice must include the name and telephone number of the towing agency that will remove vehicles or vessels from that property and be in letters at least two inches high on a contrasting background. Notices must be permanently installed with the bottom of the notice at least four feet from the ground and prominently displayed at each point of entry for vehicles or vessels. If the property does not have curbs or access barriers, there must be at least one notice for every 100 feet of road frontage. The notice must be in place at least 24 hours before vehicles or vessels can be removed from the property.

Private real properties that are single- or dual-family residences are exempt from the notice requirements, as well as vehicles impounded or removed under MCL 257.252d or vessels impounded or removed under 80130h.

For the purposes of this section, the sign required may use the term vehicle as opposed to vessel 80130o(2), 81151, and 82161 2014 PA 549.

Tagged Vehicle or Vessel   

A vehicle or vessel with a written notice affixed by a law enforcement agency. The written notice serves as a warning that the vehicle or vessel is subject to being taken into custody at the owner's expense or scrapped. Under the abandoned law, tagging a vehicle or vessel is optional.  

The Law   

As used here, "the law" refers to Michigan Compiled Laws, specifically, Public Acts 493494 and 495 of 2004; Public Act 539 of 2008; and Public Act 549 of 2014.

Towed Vehicle or Vessel   

A vehicle or vessel that was removed from a location because it met the definition of an abandoned vehicle or vessel (MCL 257.252a or 80130f, 81151, and 82161 2014 PA 549) or qualified to be immediately removed under the conditions outlined in MCL 257.252d or 80130h, 81151, or 82161 2014 PA 549.

Towing and Storage Bond

A monetary surety made to guarantee a court appearance equal to $40 plus the accrued towing and storage fees.

TR-208   

TR-208 Certificate of Scrapping available to law enforcement from the Secretary of State website for the purpose of scrapping abandoned vehicles or vessels.

TR-52   

TR-52E Notice of Abandoned Vehicle/Vessel, TR-52P Petition for Hearing on Abandoned Vehicle/Vessel, and TR-52L Abandoned Vehicle/Vessel - Bill of Sale, which are mailed by the Secretary of State.

Unlicensed Dealer   

A person or business/legal entity that is not legally licensed by the Secretary of State as a dealer.

Unregistered Abandoned Scrap Vehicle

Is abandoned, at least seven years old, is inoperable or extensively damaged so that repairing the vehicle for safe operation exceeds the fair market value, and is not currently registered in Michigan or does not display a current-year registration plate from another state.

Unregistered Abandoned Scrap Vessel or Snowmobile

Is abandoned, is inoperable or extensively damaged so that repairing the vessel or snowmobile for safe operation exceeds the fair market value, and is not currently registered in Michigan or does not display a current year registration decal from another state.

VIN   

Vehicle Identification Number - A unique identifier for a vehicle. For modern vehicles, the VIN is 17 characters long.

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