Know the Law: Inoperable Vehicles

by John Paul

January 24, 2012

All across America, more and more cities and towns are passing ordinances that regulate the outdoor storage of inoperable motor vehicles. Some state statutes and local laws even provide for the removal and confiscation of privately-owned vehicles broadly defined as abandoned or “junked”—and that includes parts-cars and backyard restoration-in-the-works projects. To better know the laws impacting inoperable vehicles in your state, check out this new, online resource from the Historic Vehicle Association.

We all want to contribute to the beautification of our cities and towns. But, unfortunately, what distinguishes a collectible or something of value from ordinary junk isn’t always clear. In many areas, inoperable historic vehicles, parts cars, and driveway restoration projects are seen as nothing more than public eyesores that adversely affect property values and residential character.     

Many cities and towns have decided to crack down with ambiguous ordinances defining what an inoperable or abandoned vehicle really is. Other local laws set time constraints on how long an “inoperable” vehicle can be parked on a driveway or city street. And some townships and cities outlaw outdoor storage of these vehicles entirely, promising to confiscate any vehicle in violation of the law.

Protect yourself and your investment by knowing your local law and how zoning officials view inoperable vehicles. To help historic vehicle owners become more informed—and, subsequently, more empowered—the HVA has assembled the beginnings of a comprehensive information resource of local ordinances for larger municipalities across the country.

While we have a fair number of inoperative vehicle statues and laws currently listed, we are looking for HVA members help to fill in the missing pieces. So please click here to check out this new and important resource. If you don’t see your town or city on the list, please contact us at to clue us in on the law in your area; the HVA legislation team will be happy to add it accordingly.



  1. John Heyer Long Island

    I live in a car and people friendly Village which chooses not to annoy owners of parts cars unless the people concerned are jerks. Ditto with boats on trailers and motor homes. I think that the HVA is lazy on this one because they have not documented the many successful challenges to the fascist type zoning laws which exist in most of the USA. Anti-stupid laws should not be directed towards car people. The HVA is very good at putting cute photos in the newsletter and saying silly things like "we all want to contribute to the beautification etc etc. Words and such are very cheap and easy to type. I would like to see some actual movement out from behind the typewriter and out of the climate controlled office.

  2. Rick Severn, MD

    Pretty simple - I keep my inoperative vehicles out of view, 'under cover' - either in a garage, workshop, etc., none are out in the open.

  3. Rick Pfeifer Arvada, Co

    Unfortunately, some cars, as in the picture above, actually have an artistic quality that makes the enviroment interesting. I agree that in metro areas they should not be allowed.

  4. Joseph Zaccagnino Parker, Colorado 80134

    Do we have a law in our area? I Restore a lot of cars. I do always keep tags on them?

  5. Speed Denver, CO

    HVA and all legislators should fight this and all the other examples of stupid endless erosion of our personal freedoms and liberties to live our own lives and pursuit of our own version of happiness. If it's my land, and I'm not physically hurting anyone else, I should not be bothered.

  6. Gary Murphy Snellville, Georgia

    It took me two and a half years to restore my Mustang. I parked it on my back patio and kept it covered with a car cover made for that Make and Model. I got away with it! If I had had a Parts Carcass sitting back there also, I know I would have been in trouble. You can’t even park on the lawn here without getting a citation. There are NO junk yards for collector cars. What few cars you can find are out in the boonies and already stripped. The death of collector cars won’t be for lack of interest, but for the lack or parts. I totally understand, but our citizens don’t. If I could afford the property out in the Boonies, I would keep a grave yard for collectors. I saw what I thought were rusty pieces of a 1930’s truck being hauled off for scrap metal just this week.