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Junk Vehicles

This page provides information on local government regulation of junk vehicles in Washington State, including statutory authority and examples of local ordinances.

It is part of MRSC's series on Nuisances: Regulation and Abatement.


The presence of an excessive number of junk vehicles can threaten the character and safety of neighborhoods. They may cause deterioration of neighborhoods partly due to visual blight, which affects property values. Junked vehicles can create attractive nuisances for children, and provide harborages for rodents, insects and other pests. Most municipalities have approached this problem through the adoption of junk vehicle nuisance ordinances, which prohibit the storage of junk vehicles in open areas of private property.

Statutes and Regulations

Authority to Abate and Remove Vehicles

RCW 46.55.240 grants specific authority for cities, towns, and counties to adopt an ordinance establishing procedures for the abatement and removal, as public nuisances, of junk vehicles or vehicle parts from private property. Such ordinances must, however, contain the applicable provisions of Chapter 46.55 RCW, including certain notice and hearing requirements.

"Junk vehicle" is defined in RCW 46.55.010(5) as meeting at least three of the following four requirements:

  • (a) Is three years old or older;
  • (b) Is extensively damaged, such damage including but not limited to any of the following: A broken window or windshield or missing wheels, tires, motor, or transmission;
  • (c) Is apparently inoperable;
  • (d) Has an approximate fair market value equal only to the approximate value of the scrap in it.

After notice has been given and a hearing, if requested, has been held, the municipality may remove and dispose of a junk vehicle. Costs of the removal may be assessed against the last registered owner of the vehicle, or the costs may be assessed against the owner of the property on which the vehicle is being stored.

The state law, RCW 46.55.240(3)(c), does contain an exemption for vehicles that are "completely enclosed within a building in a lawful manner where it is not visible from the street or other public or private property" or vehicles that are "stored or parked in a lawful manner on private property in connection with the business of a licensed dismantler or licensed vehicle dealer."

Sample Ordinance Provisions

The definition of “junk vehicle” and the process for abating junk vehicles is provided in the state statutes. The city and county ordinances linked below contain different purpose statements in their preambles, and contain different administrative procedures and vehicle storage requirements. The comments and excerpts following the various documents focus on some of the distinctive provisions.

City Ordinances

  • Algona Municipal Code Ch. 10.48 - Junk Vehicles (Pop. 3,075) - Purpose is to establish procedures under state law for the abatement and removal of junk vehicles and parts; decrease the likelihood of criminal conduct associated with junk vehicles; enhance the aesthetic qualities of Algona; conserve and stabilize property values; reduce the inherent public health and safety problems associated with junk vehicles; prevent overcrowding of land; secure safety from fire and provide adequate open spaces for light and air.
  • Mount Vernon Kulshan Creek Parking Ordinance (Pop. 32,710) - Brief description of a program to remove a decade old problem of unsightly abandoned and junk vehicles in the Kulshan Creek neighborhood. Its success has been used in other Mount Vernon neighborhoods. See Mount Vernon Municipal Code Ch. 10.10 - Abatement of Junk Vehicles and Ch. 10.20 - Parking Zones
  • Mukilteo Municipal Code Ch. 9.47 - (Pop. 20,440) - Defines junk and nuisance vehicles and provides regulations for their parking and storage.
  • Tacoma Municipal Code Ch. 8.23 - Provides detailed procedures for enforcement
  • Union Gap Municipal Code Ch. 9.28 - (Pop. 6,110) - Provides detailed provisions; adopts state statutes by reference, provides sample form for preimpoundment hearing.
  • Wilbur Municipal Code Ch. 8.16 - (Pop. 880) - Provides for a hearing examiner to conduct hearings. Decision is final unless appealed to district court.

County Ordinances

  • Clark County Code Sec. 9.24.010(2)(d) - The presence of any unattached vehicle or boat parts or three (3) or more abandoned or inoperable vehicles and/or boats that have remained in the same location or on the same contiguously owned property for more than thirty (30) consecutive days, within the front, side or rear yard; that are visible from an adjacent property or roadway.
  • Cowlitz County Code Ch. 10.27 - Provisions include landowner responsibility, hearing, failure to abate nuisance - disposal of junk vehicle authorized - infraction - penalties, civil penalties - cost of enforcement - personal obligation - liens, appeals, and junk vehicle removal fund.
    • Junk or Hulk Vehicle Permit - The Sheriff's Office issues hulk permits to property owners who have junk vehicles on their property that they would like removed.
  • Pierce County Code Ch. 8.10 - Public Nuisance Vehicles - Prohibited Activities - Penalties - Removal
    • Public Nuisance: Junk Vehicles, Pierce County Responds - A webpage that accepts complaints and requests for assistance. The county receives and investigate complaints, provides technical assistance to property owners and organize community-based solutions for code enforcement.
  • Whatcom County Code Ch. 8.32 - Declares abandoned, wrecked, dismantled or inoperative vehicles or automobile hulks or parts thereof on private property to be a public nuisance; provides provisions for historic automobiles, special interest vehicles, and for-parts cars stored by a collector. Sets determinations and burdens of proof; abatement, provides for hearing before the Whatcom County hearings examine.

Informational Webpages and Brochures

  • King County, Solid Waste Division Junk Vehicles on Your Property - Provides information on what to do with junk vehicles and contact information
  • Seattle Junk (Inoperable) Car & Vehicle Rules, Department of Planning and Community Development (Pop. 626,600) - A public information page on dealing with junk vehicles in the city; provides links to the following pages, which include links to municipal code provisions, forms and directors rules.
  • Thurston County Junk Vehicles - A public information page defining junk vehicles and how to deal with them. Page includes links to complaint form and information on how to get rid of a junk vehicle either one owned or one abandoned on owner's property.
  • Woodinville Junk Vehicle FAQ - Brochure (Pop. 10,990) - Public information brochure covering what is a junk vehicle, storage of vehicles, and violations

Last Modified: April 02, 2021