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Abandoned customer cars. Help

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I've been at my current location for 8 months and we have a couple cars that's been abandoned. One is a car with a blown head gasket, customer won't return call for anything. She only owes $30 for the diag.... another is a van that doesn't start, needs ecu and he owes $500.... and we have a 07 335i that needs a transmission that has been sitting on our lot. The 335i customer just wants to get rid of the car and offered to give it away for $200 plus what is owed on the bill. Problem is, car is still owned by the bank and he still owes on it. Can I get the title or does the bank have the right to repo it? Never done a mechanic lien or title before but I feel like this is going to be an ongoing issue

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Each state is different. I use a service that will do all the paper work for you and get a title. You pay them a fee of course but you can recoup that by scraping the vehicle out.

Another option if they don't owe you much is to have the vehicle towed to their residence.

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Check for Mechanics lien processors in your area. They charge a fee but will perform all the paperwork for you.


You can also do this yourself. Check your states requirements and laws.


If bank has a lien on the vehicle. They must be notified first. Then they will cover the cost for storage and owed repair costs and pick up the vehicle.



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File for abandoned title. If its bank owned they will contact you. If there is profit in it they will pay you and haul it off. They may work with you directly on a clear title. $250 got me a clear title on an 03 Beetle With $4000 owed against it. Same as the filing fee's except I did not have to wait 60 days.

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I've had a few that werent worth filing a mechanics lien and called a local wrecking yard to pick them up as abandoned vehicles and they handled they paperwork. The ones that were worth it we filed mechanics liens and sold the vehicles. We have it posted that any vehicle left over 2 days afer completed repair a $25 per day storage fees applies and after 30 the vehicle is considered abandoned.

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I just went through this with a car we recently repaired. Call your Highway patrol office and ask to speak to the DMV enforcement officer. It's the same guy who oversees the state inspection stations. Tell him what you need and most are happy to e-mail copies of the forms you'll need. First you'll need to fill out and send in a form to report and unclaimed vehicle. Then after 10 days, fill out and send in a notice of intent to sell vehicle. The DMV will send you a copy the letter they send to the registered owner and any lien holders. Sometimes this gets them calling wanting to pick up their car. If the state doesn't hear anything you will get a letter telling you to contact the clerk of court to file a petition to sell the vehicle. Just ask the clerk what papers you need and they will tell you the process you need to go though. And remember, they will be a charge with the clerks office. About $120 I think to file the paper work. It's a long process and it sucks, but some times the bank or the owners will hurry and get their car because they see you are serious about selling it. If they do I tack on storage and the court fees.

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I buy cars customers do not want to fix all the time for $100 - $200 then scrap them out & make back my money & then some.

We remove converters, fuel, electronics as needed & other parts we think we can use. It gives us work when slow.

We have fixed some up & sold them at a profit.

Just something to think about.....


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  • 2 weeks later...

The #1 way to prevent junk in the first place is to prominently post a sign stating "STORAGE $75/DAY" after the customer takes more than a couple days "thinking" call them and say "your storage bill is getting to be more than the repair what would YOU like to do?" We never charge storage for cars we are working on, but it promotes people to get moving. Abandoned cars with liens get repo'd by the bank, they usually call me. Junk we trade storage for titles and then we just sell the cat and the car to the scrappers. I have OCD when it comes to junk I can't stand looking at garbage in my lot that I have to plow around. It's ugly, attracts the wrong crowd, and serves no benefit. NO JUNK is my motto. Some folks really like the idea of free storage space.

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There was just another thread here about storage charges, check that thread, check your local laws and make up a policy. Check with your state DMV for regulations that you may need to adhere to and always best to check with an attorney to ensure there are no other issues you may run into. After all you are trying to collect on or dispose of someone's property that you do not own. Most of the time this involves taking possession of the property and then sell or disposing of it.


I agree with alfredauto,have a clear policy and post it (likely required by law anyway). This way you know and the customer knows what the deal is. Here we also almost never charge storage (insurance total loss tows are the exception). But the threat of a storage charge is often a great motivator. It's also a tool to take possession as usually the value owed needs to be a percentage of the value of the vehicle before possession can be claimed.


In NYS you can scrap a car worth less that $1,200 and abandoned for more than 60 days with a simple form. It can only be taken by a scrap facility, can't be titled again.

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oh and on the original topic, don't feel guilty, if your work is good, which I imagine it is to have that kind of growth in a short period of time, the customer's will stay. You will not always be the cheapest. Like most people here focus on the quality of your work. Proper and timely diagnosis and quality repair. There will always be someone willing to throw parts at a problem for a lower labor rate, they aren't technicians, they are just people that don't mind getting dirty. Be a well trained technician and business owner and success will continue to come your way.

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We have a vehicle at our shop that was an insurance job. Insurance sent tow truck driver to pick up vehicle on day we were closed (knowing we were closed) and now have refused to pay us. So we are out the ins money and we have this abandoned vehicle. What would our next step be at this point?


Thank you,


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      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
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