In nearly every city on the planet, there is, to some degree, abandoned property, and in many places around the globe, this takes the form of abandoned cars, bikes, and other vehicles. Cities with dense populations, thick forests and nearly every populated area in between harbor literal tons of abandoned vehicles, many of which come with incredible back stories. By clogging speedways, taking up valuable parking and being dangerous eyesores, abandoned cars plague the cities they occupy and many people have begun to take action against them. Government organizations and agencies in many countries around the world are trying to address this problem in their cities, however, it can be extremely cumbersome to do so, creating a seemingly endless problem. Because of this, I have collected a list of 20 places around the world that are home to the most abandoned vehicles and attempted to collect information about the abandonment issue there, the history behind it and current information related to it.
The reasons for these abandoned cars vary significantly, as some of them were abandoned voluntarily by the owner and others were forcefully left in restricted zones following natural and man made disasters. Many of the entries on this list contain images of literal car graveyards, which serve as incredible specimens of automobile history, while others show modern day results of industrialization and the ability to make cars affordable. Either way, this is a collection of places around the world with some of the highest numbers of abandoned vehicles, past and present.
20 Dubai, India
It seems to be rather well known that the streets of India's urban powerhouse, Dubai, are littered with supercars that were abandoned by their once wealthy owners. According to Gulf News, there are over 2,000 cars abandoned in Dubai each year, many of them just like the Range Rover in this picture: left to collect dust in the desert sun.
These abandoned treasures may eventually be moved, especially if they are blocking traffic or creating unsafe environments, but many are left waiting for years on end. Why are these vehicles left by their owners? The answer is most likely falling oil prices, which bankrupt the wealthy business moguls of Dubai, who have taken out humongous loans to buy expensive items like exotic supercars.
19 Sichuan, China
Huayang village, which is located in China's Sichuan province faces the same problem as many other Chinese cities: abandoned cars. The car in the picture, which I thought was a bush upon first glance, provides a look into the reality of these abandoned cars and the futures they face.
The car has been completely engulfed by natural growth, hidden beneath a layer of vines.
But of course, this also begs the question of, why was this car allowed to sit in a public place long enough to become overgrown in a rather urban part of the city? Police have since towed this car away, although it took longer than probably necessary.
18 Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, Japan
In the hills around Okazaki, there lies a yard that was once used by Watanabe-San of Rocky Auto, a Japanese car dealer. Watanabe-San eventually moved the majority of his business from the hills into the city, but kept the fields for the cars he no longer needed, including tons of JDM sports cars.
This includes Skyline GTRs, Nissan (Datsun) S30s, and other cars in the same class, some of which were modified for racing.
Dino Carbonare, from Speed Hunters, has taken some incredible pictures, of the JDM graveyard, which contain tons of gorgeous cars from the 80s and 90s that are amazing relics of Japanese automobile culture from the time period.
17 Shenzhen, China
There lie literal piles of abandoned vehicles, mostly mopeds and motorcycles, that were once used on the dense urban roadways of Shenzhen, China, home to 12.53 million residents. Essentially, the bikes have been abandoned by their owners after new nationwide emissions outright banned many of the vehicles owned by drivers in Shenzhen.
The ban was implemented to combat the number of illegally operated or unregistered vehicles in the city. In March 2015, an estimated 100,000 vehicles were taken off the road, and an additional report said that there will be about 16 million vehicles ready to be scrapped by 2020.
16 Fukushima, Japan
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, caused by the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan in April 2011, resulted in a 20-km exclusion zone that displaced about 156,000 people. High levels of radiation make the area uninhabitable, leaving the once populated area abandoned.
This, of course, includes tons of cars, many of which are the sub-sub-compact urban vehicles that are so common in Japan.
I guess this is sort of a forced abandonment, as I'm sure it was pretty awful to have lived in the exclusion zone and lost all of your belongings. The pictures look like something out of an apocalypse movie and they are a rather harrowing reminder of how much destruction nature can bring.
15 Oahu, Hawaii, United States
Hawaii has an incredible amount of abandoned vehicles, especially in Oahu, which resulted in KHON 2 News investigating the reason. Randy Leong of the Oahu Department of Customer Services has said that that,
"The tow-business climate has changed in the past several years. We have experienced loss of existing lots for towed vehicles. Also, the increase in industrial real-estate value has had a negative impact on operating costs. Similarly, it is difficult to obtain additional lots for storage from property owners who are hesitant to lease to a tow operator."
By this, Leong indicates that a lack of towing infrastructure and abandoned vehicle storage is the reason for the pile-up of abandoned cars on streets.
14 Moscow, Russia
Throughout Russia, there are many industrial buildings that have been abandoned, including a factory that was used by the Moscow Automotive Society for manufacturing automobiles as well as military vehicles.
The factory, which was abbreviated as AMO ZiL, began production in 1916, specializing in trucks, but also manufactured army vehicles, bicycles, and even refrigerators.
However, by the 1940s the factory had moved on to producing mortars and grenades to aid the war effort. After the war ended and the world entered the 1960s, ZiL began to specialize in manufacturing limousines for the country's most wealthy officials and continued production until 2013, when the plant was closed to be renovated and made into a residential area.
13 Delhi, India
Much like Dubai, Delhi is a concrete jungle littered with abandoned vehicles and the problem has gotten so bad that officials have been forced to take action. The Transport Department of Delhi had been working on a new policy for scrapping these abandoned cars and recognize that the issue has gotten so bad because of a lack of scrapping policy as well as a lack of space to keep all of the vehicles.
Officials from Delhi police said that they would also like to implement some sort of mobile reporting system, so people who are impacted by the excess of abandoned vehicles have some way to contact police and get the cars removed, but of course, passing legislation is a lengthy process, leaving Delhi residents waiting patiently.
12 New York City, New York, United States
"The Big Apple" has historically had a serious problem with abandoned vehicles and while the issue has gotten better in more recent years, it has plagued the city since the mid 20th century. In 1988, the New York Department of Sanitation removed almost 150,000 abandoned vehicles from the streets of the city, but in 2013 that number was just under 3,000.
So what changed? Changes in law have been the biggest contributor, which now allow for the auctioning of abandoned cars if the owner does not come forward for 90 days after the car is impounded. It's really not a bad system if you ask me, the person who abandoned the car gets rid of the vehicle and another interested driver is allowed to purchase the car at a staggeringly low prices. That's a win-win.
11 Johannesburg, South Africa
Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa and much like other urban powerhouses, it faces the same issues of vehicle abandonment as other heavily populated areas. This photo was taken in the parking garage for Tambo International Airport, which is home to tons of other abandoned vehicles, some of which have been collecting dust for over a decade.
It's safe to assume that these cars were most likely stolen and then abandoned, or left in the airport by an owner with a one-way ticket.
Many people simply leave South Africa and choose not to take their car with them. Police have been less then helpful in solving this issue, as the Metro Police Dept. spokesperson, Wayne Minnaar has said that they will only intervene if the cars are on public roads, not in parking garages.
10 Tijuana, Mexico
Tijuana, which is located just across the US-Mexico border, receives an influx of used American cars, which are transported into Mexico and driven illegally. The market for these cars exists due to a lack of automobile affordability in Mexico, meaning that if drivers do want to buy a car, its cheaper to buy an unregistered, illegal car, from the US. If the car accrues fines for being illegal, the owner abandons it and buys a new one, because it's actually cheaper than paying to make the car legal.
Moreover, even if the owner of an impounded car did want to retrieve it, they aren't able to because many of them do not have the proper papers for the vehicle. Simply put, the black market for cars in Tijuana has led to a rise in abandoned vehicles.
9 Bangkok, Thailand
Close to Bankok's Chinatown, lies a small community that prospers on parts taken from defunct vehicles, resulting in messy mechanic garages with abandoned cars in utter dismay.
The shops use these abandoned vehicles and chop them up, taking parts from all over the car and either selling or using them for repairs.
The picture shows what appears to be a Fiat 500, left on the side of the road after being parted out. But hey, at least someone gets some benefit from all of these cars. The same cannot be said for many of the other cities on this list.
8 Châtillon, Belgium
In a forest near a small town named Châtillon lies a graveyard of abandoned 1950s and 1960s automobiles. The backstory is incredible: after the formation of NATO in 1949, Canada implemented their plans to construct Air Force bases in Europe, resulting in an influx of Canada natives moving to France and Belgium.
One base was built in Marville, a small city in the French countryside, but because the area was somewhat undeveloped, many Canadians chose to live in Virton, a nearby, more industrialized city in Belgium. Virton was close to a mechanics shop in Châtillon, which began specializing in cars from the US that had been brought by military men and thus collected a graveyard of defunct American cars that sat for decades.
Mumbai is another one of India's most incredible urban cities and with a population of about 12.4 million, there is no shortage of abandoned cars. In fact, one article from Mid-Day, an Indian news outlet, reported on streets clogged with abandoned cars in a neighborhood named Bandra.
Locals in Bandra commented on the issue and indicated some cars had been left by tourists, but most come from Mumbai residents.
They believe that the impact the cars have on the city is detrimental, as they block certain roadways, creating one lane streets that should be two way, crippling the flow of traffic. This issue has even made its way into Indian politics: Ashish Shelar, from the Bharatiya Janata Party has said that the problem will be pursued soon and with great strength.
6 Nicosia, Turkey
The Cyprus Buffer Zone is a demilitarized area that divides Cyprus. This area is better known as Nicosia, once a populated city, now forcefully abandoned and decaying. In 1974, the Cyprus National Guard staged a coup that motivated involvement by the Turkish military and fueled the civil war between the Greek and Turkish population on the island.
After a ceasefire was ordered, the buffer zone was constructed to divide the north and south of the island. The buffer zone is restricted and guarded by the United Nations and to this day remains as a time capsule of Cyprus in the 1970s.
5 Karachi, Pakistan
Pakistan imports an estimated 60,000 cars a year, many of which go to ports in Karachi, however, many of these cars never actually leave the storage lots. The cars get ordered and delivered, but are left to be stored at the ports where they were received because the owners never come to retrieve them. Chairman of the Pakistan Motor Dealers Association comment on the problem, saying, "The government should have devised some mechanism before implementing new rules for used car imports....Now car importers have to pay heavy demurrages at the port.”
At about $750 million a year, Pakistani spending on imported cars is no small business and because the government has not intervened, it is seriously hurting the importers.
4 San Jose, California, United States
Homeowners in San Jose, part of America's, "Golden State" of California, are up in arms over the amount of abandoned vehicles that litter the streets. Large vehicles, like the RV pictured above, are being left in San Jose neighborhoods, taking parking spaces away from the people that live there.
Additionally, residents noted that the abandoned cars are an eyesore and something that really should have been taken care of by San Jose police.
I don't blame them either, considering the staggeringly high cost of living in the Bay Area, I would also want problems like this taken care of.
3 Hangzhou, China
Much like Shenzhen, Hangzhou is another city in China that has been affected by national emissions laws, resulting in literal piles of vehicles that have been abandoned. The efforts made to reduce emissions are primarily motivated by the amount of smog in the air.
In 2013, Hangzhou had 239 days of smog, which is about 90 days higher than the annual average.
The unfortunate side effect is the amount of bikes that will simply be thrown away, most likely in a landfill. The pictures are pretty amazing, as it shows the magnitude of vehicles impounded and abandoned by the city of 9.4 million people.
In many places throughout Malaysia, there is an incredibly high number of abandoned vehicles and so I have decided to include the entire country. Recently, Malaysian officials have recognized the problem and plan to take action in removing the some 8 million abandoned cars.
Many of these cars clog streets, occupy city space and generally, negatively impact residents of Malaysia.
The Malaysian government has elected to collect and condense the cars into vehicle graveyards, hoping to free up space in Malaysia's already crowded cities. The cars will most likely end up being salvaged by private mechanics across the country.
1 Chernobyl, Ukraine
In 1986, near the city of Pripyat in northern Ukraine, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant had a catastrophic meltdown, resulting in the abandonment of Pripyat. The exclusion zone measures 30 km (19mi) in every direction from the plant, leaving buildings, homes and cars in decay.
Many of the abandoned vehicles are trucks, military vehicles, and even helicopters, now riddled with poisonous radiation. Some vehicles have been extracted from inside the radiation zone, however, the cleanup over the Chernobyl disaster is slow and the vehicles will sit in the decaying ruins for the foreseeable future. The pictures are truly incredible and capture the incredible loss incurred by the Chernobyl disaster.
Sources: Car Keys, NBC News, Speed Hunters, Daily Mail, A Green Road Journal, David Morgan, KHON 2 News