A parking lot of cars is shown from a high angle.

Vehicle Abandonment: A Crisis Or Not?

Someday walking through the woods, you might stumble upon a rusty old 1953 Chevy pickup with trees growing through it and its undercarriage becoming one with the earth again. Or maybe you have seen broken-down vehicles on the side of the highway for days upon days with an orange sticker on its windshield. The definition and even point of view of vehicle abandonment vary from person to person and town to town. When it comes to used cars, some of those are even considered abandoned vehicles. But, the dealership certainly does not view those abandoned cars to be nuisances.

One Abandoned Vehicle Can Be Another Person’s Treasure

With its abundance of definitions, an abandoned vehicle can be classified as a nuisance or a treasure. Maybe someone you know has told you about their grandfather’s 1963 Jeep Wagoneer buried in their backyard waiting to get renovated. To them, that Wagoneer, although technically an abandoned vehicle, is far from being a problem. The town, however, may classify it as a nuisance abandoned vehicle. For example: in South Carolina, that cherished Wagoneer would be classified as a nuisance for being an abandoned vehicle, unless it was in an enclosed building out of sight, based on the facts that it is probably not in working order, not legally registered, and is most likely lacking parts needed to make it operable. But in North Carolina, that Wagoneer is considered a junk vehicle, not an abandoned vehicle.

Dealerships carrying pre-owned vehicles also reap the benefits of some abandoned cars. Although, unlike the Wagoneer heirloom, dealerships that buy and sell used cars do not take in abandoned vehicles for sentimental reasons. They take them off of people’s hands for their business’ profit so they can become another’s treasure. Even if a car’s owner no longer wants it, someone else is likely willing to pay for it.

Defining what an abandoned vehicle is, is based on perspective and point of view. It is not always a deserted car on the highway or a truck forgotten in the woods. In a sense, people abandon their vehicles when they sell them, privately or to a dealer, or even to the scrap yard. Rather than focusing on whether a car, truck, or SUV is defined as abandoned, the focus should be directed at whether or not it poses any risks or hazards by being abandoned.

An abandoned car is shown covered in moss in the woods.

Increased Risks and Hazards of Some Abandoned Vehicles

On the contrary to being someone’s treasure, or a dealership’s new used vehicle to add to the lot, an abandoned car can also be a problem and a hazard. Whether left unattended in a public place or roadway or abandoned on an old farm to be inundated with brush and trees, deserted vehicles pose a risk to the environment and the society where they are dumped. These abandoned vehicles are the ones that we need to be concerned with.

Vehicles left on the side of the road become a safety hazard to other drivers. Not only are they a distraction, but even when pulled off to the side, they can be in the way for emergency vehicles or even someone who needs to pull over or drive off to the side for emergency purposes. Any vehicle left on the side of the road, unattended, should be taken care of promptly. If an abandoned vehicle in public has been stationary for a while, you should report it.

Those automobiles deserted in lesser-traveled areas like the woods or an old field pose a risk to the environment. With the potential for fluids like gasoline and oil to leak out, these abandoned vehicles become hazardous. Not only do the fluids of the vehicle become a problem, but other components like the battery and even the abandoned belongings inside the vehicle can become an environmental hazard to the land, the animals, and even passersby.

Some abandoned vehicles are even deserted in plain sight. You may have walked past a few at the airport during your last flight when you left your vehicle in the parking garage. Or you may pass by some more frequently than you think on your way in and out of the parking garage you park at every day for work. Even park and ride facilities get their fair share of abandoned vehicles from time to time.

Abandoned vehicles in public pose a separate risk. Especially in well-populated areas, these vehicles have the potential to attract children who may find them to be appealing play areas, not realizing they can also be dangerous. They also appeal to vandals that could cause more harm and danger with destructive behaviors like arson. These publicly abandoned vehicles may even become a drug drop location or a homeless camp. When these activities occur, the abandoned vehicles become more than just a hazard to the environment; they become a quality of life problem.

A line of used cars are shown parked on the side of a street.

Why Do People Abandon Vehicles?

Every abandoned vehicle has its own story. Whether they pose a nuisance to the public or the environment, or if they are a family heirloom buried in the backyard. Even vehicles sold or traded into used car dealerships, from someone’s perspective, were abandoned and have stories of their own.

The most common reason for the abandonment of vehicles is money. That Jeep Wagoneer buried in the backyard, yeah, it is an heirloom, but why is it abandoned there rather than in roadworthy condition and hitting the pavement for Sunday ice cream runs? Because the price to get it on the road, or the cost to keep it in working order before it became part of the earth, was too much.

Vehicles abandoned in public areas are typically caused by lack of money as well. Whether someone was unable to make their loan payments anymore and abandoned it for the bank to hunt down and repossess, or if a vehicle broke down on the highway and was never dealt with by the owner because they were unable to pay the cost for the tow. Granted, there are a few other reasons people may abandon vehicles, such as if they were used for a crime and then ditched. However, if vehicles could talk, most abandonment stories would come back to money issues.

If your car is becoming a financial burden, you have options. You do not have to abandon your car. The demand for used cars is always high, which means you can sell it or trade it in for something with a lower monthly payment or even just a car that does not need a ton of work to keep on the road. Sure, metaphorically you would be abandoning your vehicle to someone else, but at least it wouldn’t be posing a risk to the public or the environment.

A Crisis or Not?

The crisis of abandoned vehicles is most certainly real. However, depending on how you perceive the term “abandoned vehicle,” it can also mean something completely different. Abandoned vehicles are sold daily at used car dealerships, and they are a far cry from being a hazard to the environment or a quality of life problem. So, although there is an abandoned vehicle crisis among our cities and in our woods, some also have an important role in our automobile market, giving us the pre-owned sector.