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If it can happen anywhere, it will probably happen in New York City. The Big Apple is one of the largest cities on the planet and home to more than 8 million residents. It shouldn’t come as any surprise there could be a problem with crime associated with ghost cars in NYC, and no, this is not a new problem for the city.

What is a ghost car?

Car Being Towed - Possibly a Ghost Car
Car Being Towed | Shutterstock

A ghost car uses a fictitious license plate. Typically, these can be plates that are stolen from other vehicles or made to look like temporary paper plates that are good for a few days. The use of fake plates clearly indicates the driver is involved in some form of crime, even if it’s simply trying to drive without paying the legal registration fees.

Are ghost cars a problem in NYC?

Parking Boot on a Car
Parking Boot on a Car | Shutterstock

Yes, as reported by the NYPD page, cars without proper registration and licensing are a serious problem in New York City. To combat this problem, police are cracking down on the illegal use of these plates by auctioning off vehicles found to have fake license plates displayed.

As of July 3, the NYPD had issued 16,448 tickets to drivers for using illegal or obstructed license plates. They also towed 1,700 vehicles and seized another 2,478 cars from the road. In just the past year, July to July, the Sheriff’s Office has seized more than 800 vehicles.

In addition to the vehicles towed or seized, arrests involving fake temporary paper plates rose to 3,568 in 2021, a 300% increase compared to 2016.

How dangerous are these illegal cars in NYC?

Ghost Cars at an Impound Lot
Ghost Cars at an Impound Lot | Shutterstock

Even though there are traffic accidents every day, vehicles that are properly registered are much easier to track than those bearing fake plates. A stolen Honda with expired South Carolina plates, not originally belonging to that vehicle, struck several people in June while running from a car stop in Brooklyn. This car fatally injured a 67-year-old grandmother and critically injured an 8-year-old boy in the process.

“An illegal license plate is not a harmless act; it is a clear indication that a person is not willing to operate within the most basic legal framework of society. Ghost cars and the reckless behavior of their owners are a threat to every New Yorker on the road.” – Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Philip Banks

Are ghost cars sold at auction in New York?

Car Auction Site that could be used for ghost cars
Car Auction Site | Shutterstock

Yes, many of the cars towed by the NYPD and Sherriff’s Office sit unclaimed at the impound lot. After a specified time, these cars are put up for auction. Just this year, 562 o the 1,646 cars that were towed due to illegal paper license plates were not redeemed by the owner. This led to these vehicles being sold at auction.

“ We are towing ghost cars because we know the drivers of these cars are up to no good, the law is coming after anyone who tries to make their car untraceable. We will not allow vehicles to be weaponized and our streets to be turned into a battlefield.” – Mayor of New York City Eric Adams

Sourced from NYPD page of

Next, check out the upcoming Toyota Tacoma Electric, or watch the video below describing the NYC crackdown on ghost cars:


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