Abandoned Vehicle Title in Michigan: What You Need to Know

Stumble on a vehicle stashed away on your property? That doesn’t mean that it’s yours to keep. Learn all about abandoned vehicle titles in Michigan here.
Written by Natalie Todoroff
Reviewed by Bellina Gaskey
Claiming an abandoned vehicle title in
involves more than just getting the keys. Michigan law stipulates that only the titled owner can claim ownership over an abandoned vehicle. If they do not do so within 20 days, the vehicle goes up for a public auction. 
Abandoning your vehicle in Michigan is against the law. But if you’ve found yourself looking to reclaim a vehicle that you’ve previously left behind, you still have some options—just be ready to pay some fees. In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about getting an abandoned vehicle title in Michigan.
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What is an abandoned vehicle title?

An abandoned vehicle title is a legal document issued from the state government that allows you to claim ownership over an abandoned car, snowmobile, off-road vehicle, RV, or “watercraft” (i.e., boat). 
It sounds simple in theory, but it’s not just a game of finders-keepers. In order to pursue an abandoned vehicle title in the state of Michigan, you’ll have to follow specific steps. 
In Michigan, a vehicle or vessel is considered abandoned in the following circumstances:
  • It has been left on private property without the consent of the owner 
  • It has remained on public property for more than 48 hours 
  • It has remained on a state trunk line without a valid registration plate 
  • It has remained on a state trunk line for more than 18 hours with a valid registration plate
  • A vessel that is not hitched to a motor vehicle or trailer has remained on a state trunk line and is not in the immediate custody of its owner 
  • A vessel that is hitched to a motor vehicle or trailer with a valid registration plate has remained on a state trunk line for more than 18 hours 
Vehicles and vessels are also considered abandoned if they are not retrieved after seven days in the following instances: 
  • It is in poor condition and operating it would create a public health hazard 
  • It is parked or idling where it creates a traffic obstruction 
  • It is parked in a tow-away zone
  • It is parked somewhere that would block rescue efforts during a fire, flood, snowstorm, or other emergency 
  • It is parked or idling in a disability parking spot or blocking access to a disability ramp
Additionally, a vehicle or vessel that is believed to be stolen, was seized to preserve evidence of a crime, or was involved in a crash and has not been retrieved by the owner after 20 days from the date of release by a law enforcement agency is deemed abandoned in accordance with
MCL 257.252a
MORE: What is a certificate of title? 

Can you claim an abandoned vehicle in Michigan?

Yes, it’s possible to claim an abandoned vehicle in Michigan—but the process looks different if you were the original vehicle owner or someone looking for a new set of wheels. 
If you are the vehicle’s registered owner and you’re looking to reclaim your abandoned vehicle, you and a secured party (typically, this is a lienholder) will be notified via mail from the Secretary of State. 
You will then have 20 days from the date of the notice to reclaim your vehicle from its custodian—either from the police agency, towing service, or impound lot. You can also enter the vehicle identification number (VIN) or plate number in Michigan’s
online abandoned vehicle search
Different states have different laws regulating how you can claim an abandoned vehicle if it’s left on your private property. Some states permit you to contact the last titled owner to purchase the vehicle directly from them—but Michigan isn’t one of them. 
Private property owners and businesses can only claim ownership of an abandoned vehicle if it has been put up for public auction, which occurs if the vehicle remains abandoned after 20 days.

How to title an abandoned vehicle in Michigan

Let’s say that you went the public auction route and claimed ownership of a vehicle. Now what? 
You’ll receive a bill of sale from the auction, and head down to the Secretary of State’s office to complete your vehicle registration. Make sure to do so within 15 days, or you’ll be subject to a late fee. Make sure that you bring $15 with you to cover the fees. 
Oh, and before you hit the road (if the car you’ve purchased is in drivable condition, that is), make sure that you have a
car insurance
policy that meets Michigan’s
legal insurance minimums

How much does it cost to register an abandoned motor vehicle in Michigan?

If you’re reclaiming your previously abandoned vehicle, it’s not as simple as just getting your keys back and going about your day. Abandoning a vehicle in Michigan is considered a civil infraction, punishable by a $50 fine
On top of that, you will also need to pay the custodian of the vehicle (this is likely a local police department or towing agency) and accrued towing and storage fees.
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A car that has been left on public property for more than 48 hours is considered abandoned according to Michigan state statutes. A vehicle is also deemed abandoned after seven or 20 days, depending on the condition it is left in and where it has been parked.
To report an abandoned vehicle, contact local law enforcement or a towing company. If the vehicle in question is on private property, dial 311 or 616-456-3000.
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