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There’s no law in Portland saying that a person can’t have more than one car. As long as they can afford them and a find a legal place to park them, then they can have as many vehicles as they like. But, when someone has multiple junk vehicles on their property, this is what sometimes poses a problem. It’s not even that the police won’t try and work with you if you have a junk vehicle (or vehicles). In fact, in most instances they try to get the owner of the vehicle to cooperate with them. But, if the owner ignores them and doesn’t comply, that car, truck or SUV is going to eventually get tagged for removal, and ultimately towed away from the property.

These types of junk vehicle rules are definitely not just for the state of Oregon, and similar ones apply to many different cities and counties across the nation. But being that many of the readers of this blog are located in Portland and surrounding areas, it’s important for them to know what qualifies as a junk vehicle. There may be people who are new to the area who are unfamiliar with the specific rules and regulations, or there may be local folks who’ve been living in the area for a while who need a reminder of what they are! No one wants to get their vehicle towed inadvertently.

One main thing to know about junk vehicles is that in Oregon you can’t get a title for one unless you purchased the vehicle within the State. According to, you have to go through the State that originally issued you the ownership title to attain a junk vehicle title. A junk vehicle is classified as any one that is dismantled or can’t be repaired. They’re also labeled as vehicles that can only be used for parts and/or scrap vehicles. The State where you originally bought the car makes the determination of whether or not the vehicle can be rebuilt.

When someone makes a complaint about towing a junk car on a nearby property in the neighborhood, the City of Portland is not the bureau that they should call. In fact, on their website they provide the correct number to the Abandoned Auto Hotline. That doesn’t mean that the city won’t follow up on any complaints, and they will send an inspector to the property that has the abandoned or junk vehicle. The inspector will take a look around the car and look for visible signs that it’s not an up-and-running vehicle, such as missing engine parts, broken windows, or busted tires.

When the inspector makes the determination that it is in fact an abandoned, disabled, or junk vehicle, they’ll hit it with a tag warning. City Code Title 29 says that if there is a vehicle that is disabled on a property it has to be enclosed in a place such as a garage. The only way the vehicle could remain freely seen by passers-by is if the property was an actual business that dealt in junk vehicles. The limit for it not being enclosed on your property is 7 days, and in addition to the tag warning the owner will receive a letter in the mail that informs them of what their responsibilities are concerning that car, truck, or SUV.

Sometimes when owners receive this letter, certain emotions come to the surface. This is because many people feel that as long as the property is theirs that they should be able to park anything anywhere on it. And, when they do feel like that, they do have the right to act by contesting the warning letter that they received in the mail. If they want to do that, they have to do so before the junk vehicle is towed away, by going through their local Code Hearings Officer.

Counties across Oregon make it very easy for people to understand how to report an eyesore vehicle in their neighborhood by giving them direct instructions how to do so online. Washington County is one of those places that streamlines the process for its citizens, making it easy for them to understand what the local code violations are by listing them openly on their website. For example, when it comes to running vehicles, a person can’t have more than four of them on their private property in Washington County, but having any junk vehicles is a violation. Oregon DMV says that the owner of a vehicle that has been pronounced totaled has 30 days to get a reconstructed (or salvage) title for it.

Other places in the State, such as the City of Newberg, see abandoned vehicles as one of the most common code violations. They describe junk vehicles as ones that don’t have an up-to-date license plate, vehicles that are not operational, either dismantled or partly dismantled, or simply junked. Some folks may get the terms ‘abandoned’ and ‘discarded’ confused, because sometimes the owner of the car may very well have the intention of returning to it. Still, just like in most of the counties in the State of Oregon, that junk vehicle (if it’s to remain on the property) has to be within a shut building and unseen by the public.

Albany, Oregon also sees the same types of complaints from the public about City Code being broken. For example, when it comes to vehicles, they have a few different categories, such as boats, trailers and campers. These types of vehicles have to be parked off the street, and no one is allowed to sleep or live in them unless they are located in an RV park. But, when it comes to vehicles that are not operational, if they are not licensed they can’t be parked on city streets.

The code in the City of Sherwood that has to do with junk vehicles is Section 8.16.160H. It says that any car, truck, or SUV that is unregistered is prohibited from being kept on any property. Also if there is any vehicle that is being disassembled, it’s not allowed to sit in open view on that property.

One of the most frequently asked questions on the Clackamas County website is whether or not someone can have a junk car sitting on their property for an extended period of time. County Code there under this area is 10.03, and it basically says that if a vehicle is not registered and licensed to the property, or if it is not operational, then that particular vehicle is in direct violation of code.

In Gresham County, one of the citizen concerns is reporting an abandoned vehicle. Many of them want to know if when reporting a vehicle that’s been sitting on a city street for an extended period of time if the city hears them or not, because it seems as if the response takes longer than they expect. The rule is, as long as that vehicle is street legal, then for 72 hours the owner of that vehicle has the right to park on the right of way side of the street. The only way that the owner of the car abandons this right is if the car itself is parked on the right-of-way side of the street in front of their own property or residence. Even so, after someone reports a vehicle as abandoned, regardless of where it is, an inspector will still come out to the scene, take a look at the vehicle, wait one day, then return to the scene after 24 hours to see if the owner has come to move it. If the vehicle hasn’t budged, then it’ll be impounded in three days.

In Hillsboro, Oregon the rules are similar with cars being on public streets. They don’t consider a vehicle to be abandoned unless it’s been sitting there for more than 24 hours. If the vehicle is in a person’s driveway, in their yard, or anywhere else on their private property, then they have an entire week before action can be taken against them, unless it’s in a garage or another type of enclosed building.

Beaverton, Oregon says that abandoned vehicles have to be in that spot for at least 48 hours before they can be impounded, and the vehicle can’t be located in front of the owners primary physical address. Still, they advise their citizens in Beaverton to go ahead and report any junk vehicles that they believe are wrecked or are believed to be inoperable. Citizens are encouraged to call the Abandoned Auto Hotline if they notice certain things about the vehicle that seem strange, such as if there is no registration. Abandoned vehicles will receive an orange sticker (which is a two-day notice). And, after that two days, the vehicle will be towed if they don’t get a response from the owner.

Deschutes County, Oregon has similar rules, except they only give a one day notice before towing a car, truck, or SUV that seemingly has been abandoned. They have to wait that 24 hour period before they can take legal action.


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I think that one of the main reasons that people hold on to their old cars for so long is because they are emotionally attached to them. There was this lady who I used to rent from who had this old red beat up Jeep Wrangler sitting in her driveway. Well, I rented from this lady for about a year-and-a-half, but that jeep had been sitting in the same spot for about a decade, and I’m not exaggerating. She told me how many long road trips she had taken in it, and also how good it used to run. But after that, when it stopped running, she just couldn’t bring herself to get rid of it.

You may think that this is impossible, but during that eighteen months that I rented the apartment next to her I could almost physically see that jeep deteriorating in her driveway. I mean, there was mold all over it, and, when you looked on the inside, you could see how all of the interior and seats and armrests had just eroded away from the vehicle sitting outside in the weather that whole time. And that paint job, there was no coming back from it. The tires were all busted up and flat, and any person in their right mind wouldn’t dare open up the hood from fear of snakes rats, lizards, insects, or maybe even a raccoon that may be up under there. There was a tree that hung over the driveway that she had that old red jeep parked under in the same spot, for years and years, which made the vehicle even more susceptible to living things invading it.

The worst part about it is she had the personality of a hoarder. You know, one of those people that just can’t throw anything away, and junk ends up piling up all over the place inside and outside of their residence. I don’t have to tell you guys in Portland the rules about debris and junk cars. If they are sitting on your property, and are an eyesore to your neighbors, they may have the right to call the authorities. And, the resident that has that junky yard or driveway will get tickets for that accumulating mess. That’s exactly what happened to this lady with the old jeep. I mean, she had other trash and junk around her yard too, but that vehicle is what most of her neighbors were complaining about.

I’d ask her from time to time, “Are you going to fix this Jeep up again, or just continuously let it sit here and rot and become more and more infested?” The thing was only taking up space…I was just wondering what she was going to do with it. I’d ask her about the tickets she gotten (not the ones while she was speeding in the jeep way back when, but the ones that she got from the city for it being a big piece of noticeable junk on her premises). I just knew that it would very likely be profitable for her to let it go, worth more to her if she sold it then if she kept it.

As a journalist, naturally I began to read up on the subject. I ran into this website called The Truth About Cars, and a writer named Stephen Lang further confirmed what I was trying to explain to her. The way he put it was you should “get rid of a car when it’s worth more dead than alive”. In other words, if you have an opportunity to make cash off of it, you might as well, because in the end you’re going to end up spending more cash on tickets for debris and junk in your yard, especially if you’re never going to use it again.

Another reason that many folks may not want to get rid of their junk car it’s because they remember how much money they put into it over the years. Some people really love their cars, and when they become attached to one it’s hard for them not to think that they can repair any problem that goes wrong with it. The thing is, many times these people don’t know how to repair cars themselves, which gives shady mechanics out there an opportunity to take advantage of them. See, the mechanics know that you depend on your car, but they also know that many people live paycheck-to-paycheck and will pay for small repairs every pay day if necessary. That being said, even if that mechanic knows for a fact that you could probably sell that car and get a nice profit off of it, he’ll keep patching it up between your paydays, because he knows that, once you sell it, he’s out of work.

It’s even worse if you have a car that you want to sell (whether it’s really beat down or in pretty good condition) that you’re still paying insurance on. Last thing you want to do is continuously throw money at something every month that you don’t want to use anymore, or that you can’t use anymore. These are your hard-earned dollars. Is it really smart to keep trying to bring back something to life that’s lifeless? That mechanic is going to tell you every reason in the world why you should keep that car. Many times, the older model cars people own (whether they be junk or still running) may already paid for. But, when you finish paying off a car, and the continuous repairs are adding up to be just as much as your car payment was, that’s a problem.

So you decide now, after adding up all of your previous expenses, that it’ll probably be a good idea to find someone who’ll buy your vehicle for a good price. Reyna Gobel did one article on Investopedia where she showed an example of a kind of analyzation technique that you can use to see whether or not your vehicle should be fixed up or turned into scrap metal. She also pointed out the fact that a person may have recently made a large monetary investment in the vehicle and that’s why they just don’t want to let it go. The example she used was a person who may have just bought a transmission that might have ran them a few thousand dollars. Then, after spending all that money, the unlucky car owner had something else go wrong with the vehicle, and now it’s inoperable. This is completely understandable, why the person is hesitant to sell the vehicle after spending all that money. Probably the only thing worse than being emotionally attached to that car, truck or SUV is becoming financially attached to it.

Many people who sell their junk cars use the money wisely. They take whatever they made from the sale and use it for a down payment to get a better running vehicle, or one that they simply like more. Gobel suggest that you ask questions beforehand, such as if the new car that you’re planning to buy is more energy and fuel efficient, how much your new car payments will be, and what’s the lifespan of the new car you’re planning to get after finally letting go of your old one.

Edmunds car maintenance website pointed out something else that car owners should pay attention to before they sell their car. As the primary driver of that vehicle, you know the problems that you had over and over again with the maintenance of that car. You’ve been on the most long trips with it and you’ve been the one paying the mechanic, so you have the records of all of the mishaps and inconveniences that the vehicle has put you through over a certain period of time. You know how many miles were on the car when you first got it, and how many it accumulated as you drove it. You also know what type of conditions the car has been in, whether the weather where you live is very hot or very cold. Overall, you have the best idea about the amount of wear and tear on that particular car. And that’s the information the junkyard needs to know. It’s better to sell it if it’s run down to the point where is going to keep putting you deeper and deeper into debt trying to fix it.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Still, you have those people who are insane about their cars, and they’ll keep going from mechanic to mechanic hoping that one of them will say “maybe you should sell the car…” Why are they waiting on a mechanic to say that? Because that’s the only voice in their ear that has any deeper interior knowledge about the car other than themselves, along with the fact that they themselves just need to be told to do it, because they can’t summon the courage to let it go alone. But don’t be a fool. You are losing money every time you visit that guy, and chances are he’ll keep “fixing” it every time you pull it into his garage. It’s time for you to make a firm decision to not to continue go broke for that old junk car, and sell it for a good price.

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