Hammer Time: Repo Etiquette

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang

“You didn’t have the decency to knock on the door! I have your 200 in cash.”

There are three key ingredients with most repossessions. Don’t pay. Don’t tell the truth. Don’t return calls. In the case of this former customer, the check that was ‘in the mail’ and the phone that didn’t work had suddenly transformed themselves into ‘cash money in hand’ and 27 phone calls right after the vehicle got taken back.

Most car dealers absolutely hate to take cars back. They want the money. They want the customer to be happy and recommend their business. Along with this, they don’t want to spend all the money reconditioning a vehicle back to retail form.

Reconditioning vehicles is an expensive process when it comes to repossessions. You have dented panels that either need to be repaired or replaced. Paint work. Mechanical issues aplenty. On average you’re usually looking anywhere between $500 to $1500 between the moment the repo is authorized to the 20 to 30 day time period when the vehicle is back on your lot.

That’s a major deficit compared to the $250 to $450 monthly surplus you can get by having a customer that simply tells you the truth. Contrary to modern fables, most dealerships and finance companies want to make things work. Life happens and if it’s a medical emergency or a shortened work week, invariably you’ll deal with someone who has been there, done that, heard it hundreds of times in the past.

They will work with you. I will work with you. Just tell the truth… and don’t drive around uninsured.

Steven Lang
Steven Lang

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5 of 38 comments
  • SuperACG SuperACG on Oct 15, 2011

    The lowest price isn't always the best deal. When people stop paying, they stop caring. I don't want a sludged up engine or a filthy crusty interior...

  • Nrd515 Nrd515 on Oct 15, 2011

    I remember the Bill Heard crash and burn. They deserved it. It seems like every area of the country has one of these scumbag operations where the interest rate is so insane that the person would be better buying a 100 buck beater than to get something better. I used to work with a guy who was going through a nasty divorce, and our boss found him a $100 car, a Ford of some kind, a strange metallic green with a wooden bumper. He drove that car for 4 years, and then the battery died. He comes into work one day, all red faced, and we asked him what was wrong, and he goes into a tirade about how his car needed a battery, and that a battery shouldn't have gone bad after only 4 years (It was new when he got the car). We all laughed. A battery and a few oil changes, one tire, for four years? We knew at that point, he was crazy. His web page proves it. It's a real trip.

  • Gator marco Gator marco on Oct 15, 2011

    One of my room mates in college was in a down cycle. He had a big note on a custom van, and fell behind on payments. Of course, he went through the various stages of promising a check to making up sob stories to finally ignoring phone messages and bill collection mail. Late one evening the repo guys took the van from right outside. The repo guys called from a convenience store around the corner from the apartment complex; we had quite a bit of scuba dive equipment in the van, and the repo guys were concerned with moving the 2 tanks (both were empty.) The repo guys were very nice about letting us take all our gear out of the van before thay drove it off. My buddy ended up declaring bankruptcy to get out of the loan balance, along with some other debts. I can imagine that inventorying and storing personal stuff from people's cars must make the whole repo deal distasteful for all concerned.

    • Mathias Mathias on Oct 15, 2011

      Yeah, but i think with a 'custom van' you're doing ok if the worst you find is scuba equipment...

  • Zarba Zarba on Oct 15, 2011

    I work for a financial institution, and what Steve says is 100% TRUE. As I tell folks all the time: "We don't want your car. We just want your money." I have lots of repo stories, but the best was the ex-NFL player who jumped into his Bentley ON THE REPO TRUCK and wouldn't get out. He had strung us out for almost a year. We ended up losing about $50K on that POS.