Five Weird Secrets Of the Repossession Business!

secretGuest Editorial

Funny how often the word “weird”, along with a number, are found in headlines of some online article or advertisement vying for your attention. Like “8 Weird Tricks To Help You Lose 20 Lbs of Ugly Fat”. Its a good trick to get your attention.

Apparently it worked. Truth is, there are a number of secrets in the repossession business. And these “secrets” are collectively costing America’s auto lenders literally millions and millions of dollars. No exaggeration.

Here’s some of them:

1. “Your repossessor really could come up with a lot more information that would help you recover your car.”

You would not believe the information available to us repossessors! Most of us repossessors subscribe to the same powerful databases used by those $350-per-hit skiptracers.

We have access to this information, but we may not using them on a lot of repossession accounts.

Why not?

The reason: this information is super expensive. If the repossessor doesn’t get paid “skip fees” for locating a new address, or doesn’t get paid “close fees” on accounts that don’t result in repossession, they are not going to hit these databases on your accounts.

It’s kind of an inside joke, really. Many of us are licensed private investigators, and given a decent incentive, could come up with the exact same information that creditors are paying Mr. Skiptracer $350.00 to get. But clients are often unwilling to pay us $50 or $75 for the same information. Some clients think that the repossessor will make this investment to boost their

chances of getting a successful repossession out of an account. Spoiler alert: they don’t. Or, at least not for long. If a creditor doesn’t pay skip (or close) fees, then the repossessor will just sit back and wait for the lender to come up with a new address.

2. “We’re Not Who You Think We Are”. These dumb repo shows really have done a number on the public perception of the repossession industry. The professional repossessor is no longer the knuckle-dragging Neanderthal often pictured by the public. Many (perhaps most, at this point) of those that run repossession agencies are well educated, and often had their start in the collection departments of a bank or credit union, or one of the captives like FMCC. Some had been law enforcement officers, or as stated before, successful private investigators. Most are good, honest citizens, involved in local charities, churches, and civic organizations.

In fact, if an auto lender attended a repo convention of a national trade association (like Time Finance Adjusters), they would be really surprised with whom they met. They would meet their peers.

By and large, truly professional repossessors are honest, industrious folks committed to doing a good job in a tough business. And with the external pressure of the CFPB, these repossessors are the very kind of business professional you NEED to have representing you in the field.

3.) We Don’t Treat All Accounts Equally

Some of the better repossession agencies actually do work assignments on a contingent basis for some of the big lenders or forwarders. But if you ask them off-the-record, they will admit they hate doing so. And the secret is that these accounts aren’t worked in the same fashion as “direct” or “pay-for-services rendered” clients!

Contingent handling creates a system where the information provided to them is viewed suspiciously by intelligent repossessors And why not? Contingent assigning allows the assignor to flip accounts without cost, or assign accounts to old or longshot addresses. The recovery agents discovers he’s the second or third agent to work this account, which historically lowers their chances for recovery. Or they discover they’re working old addresses pulled off an Experian report, or being asked to burn fuel to check out the address of distant Uncle Bernie who hasn’t seen the debtor in 5 years. After years of getting burned by this free-for-all system, the repossessors are worn out, and are wary of these all-too-common tactics.

We had a representative of (what was then) the largest forwarding company essentially say repossessors should “view our contingent accounts as filler work. Run these addresses when you are in the area”. I don’t have an MBA, but if I were a auto lender and I had one of my $20,000 cars sitting out there somewhere, I wouldn’t want some repossessor viewing my accounts as “filler work” or “junk” because they were being channeled by a lowball forwarding company. I’d want someone to devote enough time and effort to actually recover my car… sooner than later.

4.) Hiring a Repossessor Based Only Upon Insurance and Bond Coverage is A Huge Mistake.

Repossessing a vehicle is the most invasive collection practice allowed in the United States There’s a lot more to hiring the best possible recovery agent than simply having insurance and bond documents. Think about it: when does insurance or bond coverage come into play? Only when something goes terribly wrong. It speaks nothing about their experience, recovery ratios, or work ethic. Having the agents Insurance and bond certificates isn’t “due diligence”….. its “damage control”!

The more professional agencies participate in trade associations (like Time Finance Adjusters) where they regularly receive continuing education, legal updates, and CFPB compliance training…education that avoid problems in the first place.

5.) We Really Do Care About Your Customer. Repossessors are people, too. The Great Recesssion made debtors out of the best of people, including our own relatives and friends. Most professional repossessors I know don’t have to threatened to treat the consumer with dignity and respect….it’s part of their DNA. The people we are dealing with have already been wrung out by credit card colllectors, mortgage companies, and medical bill collectors. In most cases, they are good people caught in a bad situation, and there’s nothing to be gained to treat them like deadbeats. There is a saying attributed to Plato, the Greek philosopher: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle“. Most of the professional repossessors I know treat the consumer fairly.

If you get a chance to talk with a professional repossessor over dinner or over coffee, they will candidly reaffirm all of this. These really are some well-kept secrets in the world of the professional repossessor.



J. Patrick Altes
728 Fentress Blvd.
Daytona Beach, Florida

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4 thoughts on “Five Weird Secrets Of the Repossession Business!

  1. This has to be one of the most informative articles which has ever been written regarding the asset location and recovery industry. Patrick Altes has really “NAILED” it. I wish this article could be circulated and read by all of the men and women who assign accounts for recovery. Concise, brief, and very clearly explained by a leader in the recovery industry. WELL DONE PATRICK !

  2. It use to be that you could look in the Yellow Pages of any major city and find towing companies that advertised that they did “Repossessions”. You don’t find that anymore. Even towing companies have figured out the CONTINGENCY game. Towing companies now advertise that they buy JUNK vehicles. “JUNK” vehicle is the end result of CONTINGENCY.

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