Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Inside the Auto Repossession Business

Due to the tough economic times that we are facing, I decided to post this article about the auto repossession business that was written by Ralph Thomas. While his article is about how much money a person could make if they were in the business, I thought it worthy of posting to let you know how the business works in case you find yourself on the short end of a repossession and they are coming after you. I'm not here to offer advice but merely pass on information. The only advice that I can give you is to pay your bills on time every time in order to avoid the repo man. Of course, if you did this, you wouldn't be in the situation where you were looking for repo information now, would you?

If you are facing a repossession - good luck! That's all the advice I can offer you. - Skydancer

By Ralph Thomas
Originally Appeared As A Business Opportunity Syndicated Article

The auto repossession business is a hidden market type of business which the general public knows little about. When we investigated this business we found a very healthy market from banks and loan companies who do not wish to repossess vehicles themselves. It is a billion dollar industry that every bank or loan company will use and most loan companies and banks us them quite often. There are some 5000 firms in the United States who are in the business working out of their homes and small offices. The great majority of them do no advertising and are not even listed in the yellow pages of the telephone book. There is no need. They simply contact every bank, auto dealership and loan agency in their area to obtain the work. There are three basic reasons why this business is such a money maker:

1) The volume of assignments from companies are relatively easy to obtain.

2) The fees charged compared to the amount of time it takes to perform the repossession is very high. A repossession can take anywhere from fifteen minutes to half an hour. However, the fees charged for such a service is between 150 to 250 dollars.

3) Once a client uses your service once, he will use you again and again. Some companies have as many as two or three dozen of such assignments to give out every month. Often times, three or four clients can give you more work than you can do.

In order for you to understand how this business works and how assignments are obtained, it is important to understand the hows and why of repo assignment to an independent agency. First, there are several different markets. They are:

Most banks in the United States today do a great deal of business in auto financing. When loans are past due they usually go to the bank collection department. The people who work in this department sit at desks and make telephone calls all day long to people who are past due with their car payments. When problems occur, the account is given to the collection manager who makes a determination on what to do. In a great deal of these cases, the collection manager determines that the best solution is to repossess the car. Depending on how easy he thinks this will be, he might either have one of his collection agents repo the car or call in an outside repo agency. Some banks rely solely on outside agencies to do this kind of work. Other collection departments will attempt to repo a certain percentage of the easy ones and turn the rest over to a professional repo agency. Even a percentage of these usually end up in the hands of an outside repo man.

These loan companies work much like the banks do. However, they usually charge a higher interest than most banks and deal with a higher percentage of loans gone bad.

Thousands of used car lots can be found throughout America that do their own financing. They are usually dealing with people who can not otherwise obtain credit. The way a great deal of these operators make money is to charge the buyer a down payment equal to the what they paid for the car and finance the rest. Payments are usually made weekly by the buyer. A large percentage of loans go bad. The used car lot owner makes money by repoing the car, putting it back on his lot and selling it a second and third time. These used car lots have a great deal of repossessions but usually want a cut rate price.

People outside of this business would think that a new car dealership would not have that much of a problem with repos. However, they do have some. It generally occurs when something is found to be wrong with the loan papers and the banks or loan companies throw the liability back onto the dealership. This is called recourse. Another thing that happens is someone comes in and puts a down payment on the car. The check is written to the car dealership and the check bounces. Although new car dealerships do not have as many repos as loan companies, banks and buy-here-pay here car lots, they do have their share.

There are independents and chains. When car rentals don't come back in, these agencies have big problems. They will need to jump on these cases right away. Most of the time, this will require a full scale location investigation in order to locate the renter.

Every once in a while, a private citizen will sell off one of their autos and be paid with a bum check. Their only recourse is to call in a repo man. However, this type of market is usually only targeted by established repo agencies who have been in business several years and list their services in the telephone book.

There are other specialized markets in this business such as semi-truck rentals, semi-truck loans, motor boats, house boats, airplanes, and motorcycles. Usually airplanes and semi-truck repos go for about twice the normal charges.


Repo fees seem to vary greatly within the United States and vary greatly from one type of market to another. The standard rate for a repo from a bank or loan company is about $200.00. The standard fee for a used car agency is about $100.00. The repo agency usually has a break down in the charges which might look something like this:

DRIVER FEE: $45.00
SKIP TRACE: 4 hours @ 25.00 per hour $100.00

But the basic repo fee is 150 dollars plus another 45 dollars for a driver fee. When a repo man picks up a car, he usually has to have someone drive him to the location. That is what this fee is for. He will also be required to produce an inventory and condition report. Some agencies also take a snapshot of the car which is included in the inventory and condition report. A great deal of repo cases require the repo man to first locate the subject although this is not always the case. Usually when you locate the subject, you have also located his car. The above total bill comes to $325.00 and repo specialists report they can do several of these assignments per day.

A great deal of the problems in auto repossession occur in the location of the debtor. There is a prospective technique employed by auto repossessors that is often referred to as backwards tracing. What the repo man does is look for vehicles with out of state or out of county tags on them. When he spots one he jots down the location of the car and the tag number. With the tag number he obtains a vehicle registration from state motor vehicle and does a title trace. What this tells him is, if the vehicle has a lien on it. If it does, it will give the name of the lending company. The lending company is then contacted to see if the vehicle is missing and needs to be repossessed. Many repo men report that they can obtain assignment to a repossession on three out of every twenty leads they perform a title trace on.

No comments:

National Debt Clock