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Abandoned Vehicles

Updated: Oct 19, 2020


When is a vehicle abandoned outside of a repair shop? (C.R.S. 18-4-52)

Colorado allows for a presumption that a vehicle is abandoned if the following elements are met:

  1. The vehicle is unmoved or unattended for a period of seven (7) days or greater;

  2. Identifying marks such as the license plate or VIN number have been removed;

  3. The vehicle is so severely damaged that it only has salvage or junk value remaining; or

  4. Law Enforcement notified the owner to move the vehicle within three (3) days and the owner failed to comply.

Exception: The above presumption typically applies regardless of whether the vehicle was left on public or private property. However, vehicles meeting criteria 1-3 are excepted if left on private property with the permission of the property owner.

*NOTE: Title 18 of the Colorado Revised Statutes is the criminal code. A vehicle abandoned under Title 18 is a misdemeanor in Colorado and could mean punishment for the abandoning owner. In addition, abandoning a vehicle that cannot be easily opened from the inside, or allowing vehicles to be abandoned on your property can be a petty offense under C.R.S. 18-13-106.


When is a vehicle abandoned if left in a repair shop? (C.R.S. 38-20-116)

Unlike when the owner of a vehicle walks away from it, a vehicle is given to a repair shop with an understanding that it would be returned to the owner. If the owner fails to retrieve the vehicle from the shop, there are separate elements that must ALL be met before it can be considered abandoned:

  1. The owner leaves the vehicle at the repair shop;

  2. The shop provides an estimate and an offer to repair;

  3. The owner does not agree to the repairs, refuses to pay for the repairs, or refuses to move the vehicle; and a. Shop must make a ‘good faith effort’ to obtain permission, payment, or removal with no response from owner. b. ‘Good faith’ requires a certified letter (return receipt requested) to the owner’s last known address 15 days in advance, indicating how and when the vehicle will be disposed and a notice published in the local (nearest) newspaper if the letter is returned unclaimed. If the owner does not retrieve within 5 days of the last good faith effort, the vehicle is considered abandoned.

4. The vehicle is not subject to a sale agreement between the dealership and vehicle owner.


Disposing of a Vehicle Abandoned on Public Property (C.R.S. 42-4-1801)

The process of moving abandoned vehicles on private property is governed by the Colorado Revised Statutes 42-4-1801 through 42-4-1814. While the following is a synopsis, it is highly advisable to reference the statutes before moving a vehicle.

You must call law enforcement, who will have the vehicle towed to an impound lot. Vehicles should not be moved without law enforcement approval. Both law enforcement and a licensed towing operator will have the right to recover reasonable costs against the vehicle owner. Within 10 business days, law enforcement will make notification to the owner that abandonment proceedings are beginning. This will start with a report, denoting the vehicle, its towed location and contact, its registration/VIN, and last known owner. 10 days after the report is received by law enforcement, they shall notify the owner that the vehicle has been reported abandoned and may be disposed if not claimed and paid within 30 days.


Disposing of a Vehicle on Private Property (C.R.S. 42-4-2108)

Within 30 minutes upon receipt of a vehicle, the operator of the yard will notify police to check if the vehicle is stolen. Within 10 days of receiving the towed or abandoned vehicle, the operator of the yard will notify the Department of Motor Vehicles through a standard form, identifying the tow company possessing the vehicle, description of the vehicle and identifying information, and the vehicle’s state of origin, if known. Within 10 days, the two company must also identify the owner or lienholder to provide notice of their possession. The company must make a reasonable effort to locate the address of the owner of record for the purposes of providing the report, stating the vehicle is reported abandoned, any claim of lien, the location of the vehicle and from where it was towed, and the 30-day period within which the car must be claimed. If not claimed, the car is subject to sale.

Between 30 and 60 days, the two company may sell the vehicle in a commercially reasonable manner, such as to a dealer, wholesaler, or through a classified newspaper advertisement. If the vehicle is worth $350 or less, it may only be sold for junking, scrapping, or dismantling. No title shall be transferred.

The tow company may retain costs of towing, storing, and selling the vehicle, but only up to the amount of actual costs. Excess proceeds shall be awarded to the law enforcement agency who placed the court-ordered immobilization device, then to the Department of Motor Vehicles.


Disposing of a Vehicle at a Repair Shop (Form DR 2542)

Once a vehicle is considered abandoned under C.R.S. 38-20-116, the repair shop may sell the vehicle for its benefit. However, they must first obtain title to the vehicle. A repair shop may only obtain title if the vehicle is valued over $200. A vehicle appraised under $200 may not transfer title and may only be sold for scrap, junk, or dismantling. Any bill of sale must state that title will not transfer and must be filed with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

If title may be obtained, the repair shop should follow the steps on DR 2542 (attached to this section).


Summary of Applicable Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) and Regulations:

§ 38-20-116

Notice of sale and specific requirements for vehicles abandoned at repair shops

§§ 42-4-2101 to § 42-4-2110

Procedures for disposal of vehicles abandoned on private property

§§ 42-4-1801 to §42-4-1814

Procedures for the disposal of vehicles abandoned on private property


Criminal statute regarding abandonment of vehicles


Criminal statute regarding abandonment of vehicles

1-CCR 204-10

Dept. of Revenue, Titles and Registrations, Rule 10. Disposition of Motor Vehicles Abandoned at Motor Vehicle Repair Shops (Revised 5/30/2016)


Section Attachments:

1. DR 2542 Abandonment of Motor Vehicles at a Repair Shop – Requirements Checklist

(Rev. 12/19/2011)(3 pages)

(The Titles and Registration section has indicated this 2011 checklist is still accurate and no updates immediately pending – the revised rule effective 5/30/2016 was primarily to improve organization and to remove a maximum dollar threshold that was inaccurate in the prior rule but was not contained in the checklist).

2002 - DR2542
Download PDF • 190KB

2. 1-CCR 204-10, Dept. of Revenue, Titles and Registrations, Rule 10. Disposition of Motor Vehicles Abandoned at Motor Vehicle Repair Shops (Revised 5/30/2016)(3 pages)

2003 - Rule 10 Abandoned Vehicles
Download PDF • 423KB


Printer friendly version:

2001 - Abandoned Vehicles
Download PDF • 215KB


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