DUBAI // More drivers are abandoning their cars by the side of the road and simply walking away.
This is not, however, a return to the financial crisis nightmare of cash-strapped owners leaving the Porsche at the airport and flying home.
More than 6,000 cars have been dumped in Dubai so far this year compared with 5,487 in the whole of 2011 – but many of the abandoned vehicles are more than 20 years old and ready for the scrapyard.
"Many of these cars are in very bad condition," said Yaqoob Mohammed Al Ali, head of the specialised cleaning section at the waste management department at Dubai Municipality, which is responsible for removing abandoned cars from the city's streets.
"They have deflated tyres and engines that are rusting away, and they also attract vermin.
"Although we still see a few newer cars being abandoned, the vast majority I would say are models dating from the late 1980s and 1990s.
"They are pretty worthless and are treated as scrap metal, or garages use them for spare parts."
During the height of the financial crisis many people who lost their jobs ended up defaulting on car loans.
With no way to pay back the money owed to banks, owners abandoned thousands of expensive vehicles in streets and car parks and left the country.
"What we are seeing nowadays is different. These cars are so old and in such disrepair that it's probably cheaper to buy a new one than pay for the registration and repair work," said Mr Al Ali.
Tom Smith, head of retail banking at United Arab Bank, said since the jobs market in Dubai stabilised in the second half of 2010, the amount of loan defaulters has dropped to an "acceptable" level of less than 1 per cent.
"We have not witnessed any major surge in car loan defaults and the default rates have been stable for a couple of years," he said.
The age and condition of abandoned vehicles might have changed, but the number has increased this year according to Mr Al Ali.
"There's an approximate 8.7 per cent increase in the number of vehicles that have been observed abandoned so far this year.
"These are the figures of abandoned vehicles that are found on the streets and in public areas."
When a car is suspected of being abandoned, the municipality issues a 15-day warning notice, which allows time for the owner to be alerted and further checks to be made.
These notices can also be issued if the vehicle is preventing routine cleaning and public hygiene operations.
Mr Al Ali said most cars are removed by their owners after the notices are placed on the windscreen.
"Summer is busier compared to others months as many residents travel abroad on vacation," he said.
If the owner does not respond, the confiscated vehicle is taken to the Contracts and Purchase Department in Al Qusais. There is a Dh700 fee to reclaim the car, but most are simply left there or, if they are in good condition, put up for auction.
The banks who gave loans to buy the cars receive a percentage of the money raised from the sale.
"The amount realised from the sale of the car is first apportioned to the federal dues (fine, cost of auction, fee etc) and the rest is paid to the bank to settle the loan outstanding against mortgage of the car," said Mr Smith.
An independent valuation of the car is carried out based on the make, model, mileage and overall condition.
Residents are advised to contact the municipality if they suspect a vehicle has been dumped in their neighbourhood.
"There are a few cars that have been gathering dust along the main road here for months," said Ashfaq Hussein, who lives in the Greens.
"You always get someone scribbling a message in the dirt on the windscreen asking for it to be cleaned, but they seem to be left for months."
James Prince, who also lives in the area, has seen oil leaking from some dumped cars and tyres completely deflated on others.
"It doesn't look good for the area, but for some reason it takes a long time for them to be removed."