How to Go About Reporting a Dumped Car

The low-down on dumped cars.

An abandoned car can be a nuisance, obstruct roads or paths for other vehicles and pedestrians, and attract further dumping. It’s also not especially nice to look at. It’s understandable that members of a community would want it removed. But what’s the process involved? Let’s take a look at how to go about reporting a dumped car.

But first…

What is a dumped car? 

A vehicle is considered abandoned or dumped if it is left stationary for a significant length of time and shows signs of being seriously damaged or unroadworthy. It applies to a car, van, motorcycle, caravan or trailer.

How long before a car is classed as abandoned?

If a vehicle is parked without being moved for 28 days it can be considered abandoned. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is – and it’s worth trying to find the owners, or alerting the authorities to help. We’ll outline how to go about this below.

How long does a car have to be parked before it can be towed in the UK?

As long as a car isn’t breaking any rules for the road it’s parked on, there’s no time limit for how long it can be parked in the same place. The car must, however, be taxed and insured. If the vehicle is untaxed, is missing number plates, or looks like it’s been abandoned, then it can be removed by the authorities. 

How do you know if a vehicle has been abandoned?

The easiest way to tell if a car has been abandoned is if it doesn’t move for a long period of time. There are, however, some other signs that can suggest that it’s been dumped, such as:

  • It’s significantly damaged, run down or unroadworthy
  • It’s body is badly rusted or burnt out
  • It’s tyres are flat or missing
  • It’s windscreen and/or windows are broken
  • There are weeds growing up around the car
  • There is litter piling up inside or around the car
  • There is waste inside the car, such as old tyres or appliances
  • There is mould inside or on the outside of the vehicle
  • It’s number plates are missing
  • It’s untaxed or has no MOT
  • It has a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) 

Is dumping a vehicle illegal?

Dumping a vehicle is a criminal offence. Anyone who abandons a car or parts of a car on roads or on land in open air can be issued a fixed penalty notice or be prosecuted by the authorities. Conviction can result in a fine of up to £2,500, imprisonment, or both.

What can I do about an abandoned car outside my house?

If you suspect a car has been abandoned outside your house, or on land that you own or manage, the first step to take is to try and find out who owns the vehicle. You can request this information from the DVLA

When you have this in hand, you can contact the owner and ask them to remove their car. If you can’t find their details or reach them, however, you can report the vehicle to your local council through this website

It is the local council’s responsibility (and potentially that of the national park authorities) to remove dumped vehicles from any roads and land, including private roads and land. 

Whatever you do, don’t try to move the vehicle yourself. This could be a criminal offence.

How do I notify the police of an abandoned car on the highway?

Vehicles that are abandoned on the highway need to be reported to the police by calling 101. 

Vehicles that could be dangerous – if they’re leaking petrol, for example, or if they contain dangerous items such as flammable gas bottles – should be reported to the police straight away. 

It’s worth remembering that a car can’t be investigated by the authorities if:

  • It’s parked legally on a road or highway and there are no other signs that it’s been abandoned 
  • It’s a nuisance because of how and where it’s parked
  • It’s parked on private land with the landowner’s permission

How to go about reporting a dumped car

Before reporting a car as being dumped, it is worth considering a few questions. Is there a chance that the vehicle has broken down? Could the owner be away? Does anyone around recognise the vehicle?

If you suspect a vehicle has been abandoned, it’s important to follow the correct steps in reporting it.

What details do you need when reporting a dumped car?

It’s useful to provide as much as the following information as possible when you report a dumped car: 

  • The vehicle’s registration number
  • Its make and model
  • Its colour
  • The condition of the vehicle
  • Its exact location
  • How long it’s been there
  • Its tax expiry date (again, you can look this up if you have the vehicle’s registration number)
  • Any photographs of the vehicle

What happens when a dumped car is reported?

Based on the information you provide, the authorities will go out and take a look at the car. If they suspect that it’s been abandoned, they will attempt to contact the registered owner. If that fails, they’ll move the car to a secure place. 

How long does it take for a dumped car to be removed?

This depends on where the vehicle is and on the local council. 

An abandoned car will usually be removed immediately if it’s posing any sort of danger to the public, such as leaking hazardous substances. 

If it’s not an urgent threat, though, the authorities will need to give the owner a chance to collect it before they remove it. If the car’s on public land, the owner has seven days to move it. If it’s on private land, the owner has 15 days. After that, the authorities have the right to remove the car and get rid of it.

What happens to an abandoned car when it has been removed? 

If the owner of the vehicle can’t be contacted or if they don’t collect it, the authorities will usually:

  • Destroy the vehicle at an authorised treatment facility if it’s not roadworthy
  • Sell it at an auction

It’s also important to know that, if the car has no number plates or tax disc, the authorities are entitled to dispose of it immediately. 

The owners of abandoned vehicles that have been removed and sold can claim the money for up to a year, minus the costs involved in removing, storing, and disposing of it. 

And if a vehicle is still considered to have some value (beyond its scrap value) or if it has a number plate or tax disc, the owner will be given seven days’ written notice to collect the vehicle from its storage location. If the owner comes and claims the vehicle, they must pay for expenses involved in removing and storing it.

In summary

Abandoned or dumped vehicles refer to cars, vans, motorcycles, caravans or trailers that haven’t been moved for 28 days or longer on public roads or open air land. They usually show signs that they’ve been abandoned, such as extensive damage, missing number plates, or no tax disc.

Abandoned vehicles can be reported to the local authorities. If the vehicle is parked on private land, the owner will be given 15 days to move their vehicle before the authorities can take it away. If the vehicle is on public land, the owner has seven days to move it.

Vehicles that are considered dangerous should be reported to the police straight away.

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