We're not parking it, we're abandoning it.
July 6, 2019 7:20 PM   Subscribe

How do I legally abandon a car?

My 2001 Audi A6, with 175K miles, broke down (overheated) in Alamosa, Colorado.
I left it with a mechanic who said he'd be able to look at it 2 weeks.
(2 other mechanics gave the same lead time)
After describing the symptoms to a friend who is knowledgeable about cars, he said it likely needs a new thermostat or water pump. Minimum $400 job.
Alternatively, it would be about $400 to have it towed back home to Santa Fe, NM.
The car already has problems: It leaks oil, needs a new catalytic converter, the clear coat is peeling off.

I'm considering just abandoning the car, in some legal way.
The aforementioned friend said I could say to the mechanic:
"The car is all yours. Fix it and flip if you want."
That works for me. How would I go about that?
Any issues with the 2 different states (NM vs CO)?

Any other options?
posted by falsedmitri to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just make sure the title gets transferred to someone else, submit the paperwork to your registry.
posted by sammyo at 7:25 PM on July 6 [6 favorites]

You can donate it to charity. (I know Habitat for Humanity accepts car donations, and NPR is always advertising that you can donate your car there.) I think they'll take just about anything. They'll sell it for scrap if it's not drivable.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:30 PM on July 6 [18 favorites]

https://www.cpr.org/support/vehicle-donations/ Colorado Public Radio will take it from there.
posted by nickggully at 7:43 PM on July 6 [5 favorites]

It sounds like you left the car there and returned home, do you have the original title at home? (Some states send you the original, some states send a copy and keep the original on file.) After all, you can't force the mechanic to accept it, they have every right to say "Get this junk out of my lot."

But yes, if you have the title you can have a conversation with them and sign it over to their possession, and then you send the original title to them.

The public radio donation option has been mentioned above, and as someone who did that myself, it was pretty easy, but not that swift. You'll have to give the website some details about your car, including an odometer reading, and then sign and send the original title to the salvage company that does pickups for the radio station. Then they'll contact you to make pickup arrangements.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 7:47 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]

If Alamosa is not in CPR's collection area, contact Goodwill.
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:57 PM on July 6

Heck, I just called a Pick 'n Pull and they came out with a flatbed tow and took it, giving me a form to sign. I probably left a couple hundred dollars on the table by giving it to them for free, but it became gone very easily.
posted by rhizome at 7:57 PM on July 6 [5 favorites]

If you're concerned about the situation of refugees in Texas, you can donate an unwanted car to RAICES.
posted by escabeche at 8:21 PM on July 6 [22 favorites]

Last year I donated my barely drivable 20 year old car to a local charity that some of my friends are heavily into. Turns out the charity uses Car Easy as the service. The hardest part was getting all the right paperwork in order for a 20 year old car. Once I had that squared away the service sent out a tow truck and took my car away.
posted by mmascolino at 8:24 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]

The aforementioned friend said I could say to the mechanic: "The car is all yours. Fix it and flip if you want.

I got rid of a car this way (although the mechanic paid me a couple hundred for salvage). Basically, I dropped off the car; he wrote a sales receipt; I handed him the title and signed it over. Any auto salvage yard nearby would likely be willing to do such a transaction with you.
posted by crush at 8:36 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]

I have gotten rid of a couple of dead cars over the last several years by advertising them as available for scrap on craigslist for $200. It usually takes about 25 minutes for someone to email me with an offer of $100. They come by with a tow truck. I sign over the the title, they give me $100, and it's done before lunch.
posted by makoi at 11:29 PM on July 6 [8 favorites]

The biggest problem may be getting your license plates back which is very important for your own security.
posted by Botanizer at 4:54 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]

Minimum $400 job. Alternatively, it would be about $400 to have it towed back home to Santa Fe, NM. The car already has problems: It leaks oil, needs a new catalytic converter, the clear coat is peeling off.

FWIW, those aren't exactly major issues for a VW Group vehicle of that vintage. In fact, they're pretty common. Personally, I'd have the mechanic do the water pump/thermostat job, drive it back home, and then put it up for sale. I'd list in down in Albuquerque, too. Someone will definitely buy it off you. You won't get top-dollar for it, of course, but it's better than nothing.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:05 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]

If you can’t actually go to the DMV with the person you sell the car to in order to transfer ownership, I’d go with a reputable charity and ask what they do with the license plates. I know someone who sold a car to a stranger and trusted him to take care of the paperwork. Stranger didn’t register the car, then used it in a robbery. The police showed up at this person’s house thinking he’d committed the robbery. It was resolved pretty quickly (he’s white and middle class), but it could have been much worse.
posted by FencingGal at 6:15 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]

I would call one with one of the main advertised "we will buy any car for $300" type outfits in the local area and talk to them about it. They do this every day and they will know how to transfer the title, return or destroy the plates, and handle everything else. They will probably want you to mail the title to them or something like that. I'm a little leery of the charity-driven junk car operations; obviously, NPR is not coming to pick up your car - it's just one of these same junk car services under some kind of contract with NPR for a portion of the money. In this case, where it is important to find someone you trust with handling the plates etc and someone you can work with long-distance, I would contact the junk car service directly rather than through a charity program. You can always donate the money to charity afterward!
posted by Mid at 6:32 AM on July 7

I emptied the car before I left town. I have the license plate (NM has only a rear plate).

I like the RAICES idea. I'll look into that.

Another question: Can I stop the insurance on the car now? Or do I need to keep it until ownership is transferred?
posted by falsedmitri at 7:01 AM on July 7

If the car is in your physical possession (i.e at your home), you can cancel insurance as long as it's parked off the street and never driven (usually. ymmv, obviously. check with NM DMV) If it's still at the mechanic and you haven't transferred ownership to anyone, you need to keep insurance going.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:43 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]

I just donated a car to a local NPR station. I made a phone call and was called by the assigned tower not 30 minutes later. They came 1 day later after I confirmed that I had the title in my possession and would sign it over. Not sure how a charity would coordinate when the title was out of state, but the recipient of a donation would be motivated to work this out. I doubt this is the first donation of this type they have accepted. And we had stopped the insurance because the car was not inspected and thus could not be legally driven.
posted by citygirl at 9:19 AM on July 7

Donation of my wife's old Saturn coupe that bit the engine dust was easy. We called and they came and got it from the mechanic's shop, they gave us the tax form that guaranteed X amount of deduction (maybe it was $250, maybe it was $750) for the charity donation and said they'd contact us if, at auction or whatever, it went for more than that so that we'd get full/fair value of said donation on our taxes. We never heard that from them but I'm not at all surprised.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:41 PM on July 7

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