They were not seen while inspecting the property prior to sale, because it's a large property and mostly the same throughout. We looked at aerial photography, but it appears they were left there after the latest photography was done, which means sometime after 2009, which means they were parked there while the previous owner owned the land. He doesn't know why they are there, or who left them. I want to say they are clearly abandoned, because they are in bad shape and the grass has grown up around them, but I'm not confident enough. They look like they could maybe be restored to working order (not that it'd be worth it though), and they still have license plates. They are locked, so I wasn't able to check for a registration or other info.

I would like to simply call a scrap yard to have them removed. The previous owner says he thinks I should keep the money the scrapyard offers, he considers them to have been bought with the land (AKA he just wants the issue to go away, and hopes I don't try to make it his problem).

What are my legal obligations here? Am I required to report their finding? To whom? If I have no legal obligations does that mean they are now mine to scrap?

  • 4
    Did you see what expiration year is on license plates? How long ago did you legally close on the land? And what state is this in? Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 19:22
  • I posted this as a guest, and lost my guest cookie. I've now created this account, working on getting them merged. Anyway. Expiration year is a good idea. I'll check next time I'm out there. Sale closed in December. State is Nebraska.
    – Hemsy19
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 20:43
  • 2
    If I want to get rid of my car and drive it on your land and leave it there, it's abandoned. If a thief steals my car, drives it on your land and abandons it there, it's legally stolen, not abandoned. If I drive my car on your land completely drunk and leave it there, and next day I can't remember where my car is even though I want it back, it's lost, not abandoned.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 21:10

3 Answers 3


There are two very important points you should keep in mind here:

  1. You are not under any obligation whatsoever to investigate the owner of a vehicle parked on your property.
  2. You have full rights to tow any unauthorized vehicle off of your property.

So, by far the easiest thing for you to do is to shift all responsibility off of yourself. Make it somebody else's problem.

Try the police first.

The safest thing you can do is simply dial 911 (or try to find a non-emergency number if you live in a major city, but Nebraska suggests just calling 911 directly) and report the abandoned vehicles to police. Their process for declaring a vehicle abandoned can take a bit longer (takes seven days in Nebraska). Essentially they'll document the vehicles' location and tag them, and probably run the license plates (if they come back stolen, they'll be towed by law enforcement immediately). Then they'll come back seven days later and, if the vehicles are still there, have them towed as abandoned vehicles. Law enforcement will sometimes only respond to private parking complaints that are actually on paved surfaces, and it sounds like these vehicles are just parked out in the middle of a field somewhere, so they may not actually care. But it doesn't hurt to check.

If that fails, just have it towed.

If law enforcement says it's ok or doesn't care about the vehicles, the next easiest thing for you to do is to call around to different tow companies, and see if one will tow it off your property for free in hopes of recovering tow costs and other fees from the actual owner of the vehicle, or through sale of the vehicle if it's never claimed. Let them do all the research and contact the owner, or report the vehicle to the police if necessary. You don't need to do any of the work yourself. Sure that doesn't get you any money, but any scenario that gets you money will be a very long process and it sounds like you just want the vehicles gone.

You do not own the vehicles.

The previous owner saying you bought the vehicles with the land is blatantly wrong. Ignore him, completely. By that logic, someone buying an apartment complex would subsequently take ownership of all vehicles on its private parking lot. That's not how vehicle ownership works in any state, and you do not own the vehicles, nor do you have any right to dispose of them. Even if the vehicle is abandoned, there is still a legal process that must be followed to claim ownership of an abandoned vehicle with the state. Unless you really want to take ownership of the vehicle, those processes are probably way more time and effort than you're willing to expend (usually resulting in years of waiting).

Taking it to a scrap yard could be very bad for you.

Since you do not have ownership of the vehicles, you definitely should not take them to a scrap yard. Destroying the vehicles without giving a person the chance to come claim the vehicles could get you into a lot of trouble. You're basically destroying someone else's property. If the person came back looking and found out you destroyed them, they may even be able to press charges against you, the scrap yard, or a combination of both (a Class IV felony in Nebraska, since vehicles are worth more than $1500).

As an aside, any legitimate and reputable scrap yard should outright refuse to destroy the vehicles for you, because you won't be able to provide them with any documents that verify your ownership of the vehicles. Make sure you don't destroy the vehicles in any other way, though.

Again, shift the responsibility.

Don't put yourself into situations if you don't have to. Law enforcement and tow companies deal with this stuff every single day, and are much more qualified to handle this situation in a legal way than you are. Let them take all the responsibility off of you, and don't worry about doing anything yourself. It will make sure you don't do anything illegal, and thus don't open yourself up to repercussions later on down the line.

  • The police first suggestion is obviously correct. Consider a similar in which the vehicle is known to have appeared on the property while it was owned by the current owner. What would one do then? Call the police.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 18:19
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    Excellent answer, thank you! On the previous owner telling me they are mine now: I'm realizing he may have been trying to say they are my problem now.
    – Hemsy19
    Commented Mar 5, 2018 at 18:54
  • Oh, yes. The "someone else's problem field." A marvel of ScottAdamish science. Commented Feb 7 at 15:39

Armed with the license plate info and VIN number (which can usually clearly be seen through the front windshield), it should be fairly easy to track down the last registered owner. But if the previous owner doesn't know about the vehicles being on his property (especially since he has lived there for quite a while and the cars are apparently newer in age (or at least were added to the property during the time he's owned the property), I'd contact the authorities to have them investigate as possible stolen property. They should be able to tell you what your rights/obligations might be and confirm the lack of potential crime associated with the vehicles.

  • (I posted as guest and lost my guest cookie, created this account, working on getting them merged.) No one lives on this land. Other than a wheat field and a shed it is undeveloped.
    – Hemsy19
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 20:48

A tow company can't legally take an auto to a salvage yard (crusher) for you without a title. A tow company isn't going to research the owner for you either. Laws vary, but in most states you can call the DMV with the VIN# and they will tell you the name of the owner. How old are the cars? If the vehicle has a lienholder they should be notified. On the upside - you can charge a storage fee for holding the auto on your property.

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