Abandoned vehicle removal is one of our most frequently submitted service requests. In March 2021 alone, we received 4,198 inquiries about abandoned vehicles. These vehicles are investigated and removed by the Neighborhood Services Unit (NSU) of the Philadelphia Police Department. We want to make sure all of your questions about abandoned vehicles are answered and take you through the removal process from start to finish.
When is a vehicle considered abandoned?
A vehicle is considered abandoned for any of the following reasons:
- It is not driveable. This may be a car with flat tires, missing parts, or any other damage that would prevent it from moving.
- It is dangerous. This may be a car that has been involved in an accident and has jagged edges, leaking fluid, broken glass or anything else that poses an immediate danger.
- Its inspection and registration have expired for more than 90 days.
- It is illegally parked and is inoperable for more than 48 hours. The inspecting officer must be able to see if the vehicle is inoperable, i.e. the engine is on the ground.
- It does not have a license plate, inspection sticker, and vehicle identification number.
- It is left on private property for more than 24 hours without the property owner’s consent. The property owner must be available to sign a Private Property Form in order for the vehicle to be removed.
What if the vehicle is abandoned on private property?
Vehicles left for more than 24 hours on private property that is accessible to the public can be reported as abandoned. Driveways and alleyways are not all considered private property. Some rear driveways are part of the common drive and therefore not considered private property. Once reported the officer investigating the vehicle will determine if it’s private property or not. The property owner’s written consent is required before the police can tow the vehicle. If a vehicle is left in a vacant lot, the Community Life Improvement Program (CLIP) will work with NSU to get it removed. You can report vacant lots that need cleaning on our online form. The police cannot investigate a vehicle on inaccessible private property (walled or fenced–in property).
How do I report an abandoned vehicle in Philadelphia?
Glad you asked! You can report an abandoned vehicle to 311 by dialing 3-1-1 (215-686-8686 if you are outside of Philadelphia), using our mobile app or web portal, or by email. Be sure to include the following essential information in your report:
- An exact address (street name and number) of the vehicle’s location. If you are not sure of the exact address, use Atlas to find the closest exact address.
- Vehicle color
- Make (i.e. Honda) and Model (i.e. Civic)
- Body style (i.e. 4 door sedan)
- Description of the vehicle’s condition
- License plate state and number
- A photo of the vehicle
We encourage you to include as much information as possible in your report. If you see that the steering column inside the vehicle is broken or is missing the cover, please call 911 immediately to report the potentially stolen vehicle. Do not make multiple complaints about the same vehicle. This does not speed up the process, it actually slows it down and causes a backlog of complaints.
Can I report larger vehicles like box trucks or trailers?
Yes, you can report larger vehicles such as vans, trailers, box and rental trucks. If there is debris in the truck, be sure to let us know in your report. The trash from the vehicle needs to be removed before it can be towed safely. These larger vehicles will take longer than usual to remove as special equipment such as cranes or low-boy trucks needs to be coordinated for the removal process.
I’ve reported an abandoned vehicle, what happens next?
Once you report a vehicle, an officer from the Neighborhood Services Unit will investigate and determine whether it classifies as abandoned. If the officer finds that the vehicle poses an immediate danger, it will be towed immediately. In less severe cases, the vehicle owner may receive a courtesy notice from the Police Department informing them of their intent to tow. The owner is given a short period of time to bring their vehicle into compliance with the law. This could include repairing the vehicle or updating the vehicle’s registration/inspection.
How long does it take to get a vehicle removed?
It can take up to 60 business days or longer to get an abandoned vehicle removed. This length of time depends on the severity of the issue. Abandoned vehicles posing an immediate danger will be removed immediately. Less severe cases will take longer. In addition, depending on the season, police officers in the Neighborhood Services Unit could be reassigned to higher priority issues. If your abandoned vehicle request has been open for more than 60 business days and the vehicle is not removed, please follow up with Philly311 with your service request number. We will be happy to look into the case for you.
My vehicle was towed by Neighborhood Services. How do I get it back?
If your vehicle was towed by the Neighborhood Services Unit, please contact them by calling 215-685-9500, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.