For most car owners in the UK, a car is vital for getting around to complete daily errands and travel further afield for holidays, with the vehicles being used multiple times per day in some cases. However, there are many instances when cars do go unused for periods of time – for example if they require repairs that can’t currently be paid for, or if the owner is unable to drive due to medical conditions or other licencing limits. With both the cost of car ownership and the cost of living increasing, this is something that will only become more common as people battle to pay their bills.
In these situations, owners can notify the DVLA that their car is off the road through a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN), and avoid paying tax or insurance during this time, while for drivers who are unlikely to get back on the road, selling the car to a dealer or scrap yard are both good ways to get rid of a vehicle. However, more and more people are unfortunately leaving their cars abandoned rather than going through the regular legal channels. Likewise, in the case of car thefts and crime, perpetrators are frequently known to abandon and burn out vehicles to distance themselves from the act.
However, leaving a car abandoned is in breach of Section 2 of the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978 (RD(A)A 1978), which is an illegal offence that can carry fines of up to £2,500 and three months’ imprisonment. According to the DVLA, a car can be classified as abandoned if it meets any of the following criteria:
- It has no keeper on DVLA’s database and is untaxed
- It’s stationary for a significant amount of time
- It’s significantly damaged, run down or unroadworthy, for example has flat tyres, missing wheels or broken windows
- It’s burned out
- A number plate is missing
Cars can be reported to the local authority and will then be scheduled for removal if no owner can be found, or the car is only fit to be destroyed.
With this in mind, we wanted to find out which UK cities have the highest number of abandoned cars, so using Freedom of Information requests to city councils across the country, we’ve found out which cities have had the highest number of reports of cars abandoned in their area over the past three years.
Which City Has The Most Reports Of Abandoned Cars?
Unsurprisingly, when combined, the FOIs to London borough councils reveal that London has a staggering number of abandoned car reports each year, with numbers exceeding 135,000 reports over the past three years.
As a result, and given that our other requests were to city councils, we’ve decided to focus in on these and reveal which cities outside of London are our abandoned car capitals.
Out of 45 other cities in the UK, Bradford is revealed as the city that has seen the highest number of abandoned cars reported over the past three years, with 7,625 reports since 2020. Of these years, 2021 saw the highest level of abandoned car reports in the city, with numbers peaking at 3,660 cars reported, before dipping to less than half of this at 1,062 in 2022.
Coventry follows in second, with 4,738 cars reported as abandoned in the same timeframe, again with the number of reports peaking in 2021. Brighton and Hove, Sheffield and Oxford complete the top five cities with the most reports of abandoned vehicles, all with more than 4,500 reported.
The 10 Cities With The Most Reports Of Abandoned Vehicles
Total no. of reports (Jan 2020-Dec 2022)
|3||Brighton and Hove||4,696|
The London Boroughs With The Most Reports of Abandoned Vehicles
Given that London is such a vast city, with many unique areas, we wanted to look at the city in even closer detail, to reveal which boroughs have the biggest abandoned vehicle problem.
Taking the top spot in London is the borough of Redbridge, which has seen more than 8,313 reports of abandoned vehicles over the last three years – putting this one borough alone above the top overall city of Bradford for the number of reports!
Enfield (5,771 reports), Lewisham (5,314 reports), Ealing (4,593 reports) and Barnet (4,546 reports) are also among the top five boroughs with the most vehicles reported as abandoned. On the other end of the scale, of the boroughs that disclosed the requested information, the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham had the lowest number of reports, with just 134 cars reported over the past three years combined.
Total no. of reports (Jan 2020-Dec 2022)
|8||Barking and Dagenham||3,697|
Where Were The Most Cars Reported Abandoned In 2022?
Although Bradford was revealed as the city with the most reports of abandoned cars over the last three years, the city only ranks 9th for the number of reports in 2022 alone. For the number of reports made last year, it’s Sheffield that tops the table with 1,866 reports made between January and December 2022.
Although Edinburgh featured in the top 10 cities overall, the city is absent from the top flight for 2022 – perhaps the city is getting its abandoned car problem under control? On the other hand, Bristol and Sunderland are both cities that could be seeing their reports starting to increase, as the cities enter the table in 8th and 10th places with 1,078 and 1,025 reports respectively in 2022.
Council 2022 reports (Jan 2022-Dec 2022)
|2||Brighton and Hove||1,628|
Which Cities Have Seen The Greatest Increase In Reports Since 2020?
Outside of the total number of reports, we’ve also taken a look at which locations have seen the greatest increase and decrease in the number of cars reported as abandoned – and it’s Burnley leading the way with the greatest increase. With a 201% change in the number of cars reported, from 114 in 2020 to 343 in 2022, the town as seen a significant increase in reports over the last three years.
Swansea follows in second with a change of 120%, with 494 reports made in 2022, up from 225 in 2020. Bristol is close behind with reports increasing from 498 to 1078 over the same period, resulting in a percentage change of 116%.
As well as featuring among the locations with the highest number of reports overall, Sheffield also ranks highly for percentage change, with an additional 807 reports made in 2022 compared to 2020.
The 10 Cities With The Greatest Increase In Reports Of Abandoned Vehicles
Which Car Brands Are Reported As Abandoned The Most?
As well as looking at the locations with the most reports of abandoned vehicles, we’ve also been able to take a look at the car brands that are involved in these reports most often.
Topping the charts are Ford brand vehicles, with 4,271 reports of these vehicles being abandoned in the last three years. Looking deeper still at the models that were reported, among the overall Ford number were 194 Ford Focuses, 223 Ford Fiestas and a whopping 431 Ford Transit vans reported.
Vauxhall (2,848 reports), including 308 reports of Corsas and 329 of Astras, and Volkswagen (2,284 reports) follow to complete the top three, which interestingly, matches up with our own reporting of the brands that were most scrapped in 2022.
Total no. of reports (Jan20-Dec22)
No matter what state your car may be in, leaving it as abandoned is never the answer to get it off your hands. Not only is it against the law, it also creates a hazardous eyesore and could also be dangerous for other drivers if it obscures the view at junctions or for pedestrians and cyclists who may also be using the area.
Over time, abandoned cars will release toxins and harmful pollutants into the environment as they degrade, which can impact both humans and animals in the surrounding area. Similarly, any fluids within the car may also leak, which can carry the risk of contaminating water sources. If left for a long period, these pollutants can build up and have even more significant impacts on the local food chain and environment.
What to Do If You See An Abandoned Car
If you see a car that you believe to be abandoned, the best course of action is to contact the local council. This is a very straightforward process and can be done using GOV.UK’s Report an Abandoned Vehicle tool and entering your postcode. The police should only be called if the vehicle is in a dangerous condition, for example, if it is leaking petrol or contains items such as gas bottles.
Once reported, before the vehicle can be removed, the council will try to contact the owner of the vehicle and give them seven days’ written notice to collect it. If the vehicle is on private land, they must also notify the landowner of their intention to remove the vehicle with 15 days’ notice.
If your car isn’t driveable, selling it for scrap or salvage may be the best way of getting some cash back, and will also ensure that the vehicle is broken down for recycling or reused and put back on the road.
We submitted Freedom of Information requests to a total of 96 councils within the United Kingdom, to discover the number of abandoned cars that had been reported to each council between January 2020 and December 2022. Of this 96, 80 councils responded with data, meaning that 16 councils have been omitted from our results.
The car makes rankings were compiled using data where car manufacturer information was included in the report, while any that did not include this information were discounted from this specific analysis.
Data correct as of March 2023.