Just Get it Out of Here! Towing Abandoned Vehicles

Do you have a delinquent and abandoned vehicle left to die at your facility? Having it towed instead of trying to sell it yourself is often the best option and should be part of your self-storage business plan.

“The primary reason towing is advantageous – and why we started pursuing this – is because the lien laws about selling a vehicle or anything that has a title associated with it are often complex,” says Joe Doherty, legal and legislative counsel for the Self Storage Association. “Storage owners must abide by restrictions from the Department of Motor Vehicles, fill out their paperwork and post the sale up to three times in the newspaper before you sell it. It can be a cumbersome and antiquated process.”

In addition, many of the vehicles stored in self-storage facilities are not Lamborghinis or Ferraris whose sale would satisfy the tenant’s debt and make it worth going through a complicated process. Most of them are junkers that are only going to be worth a couple hundred bucks.

Considering simply having the vehicle towed to the tenant’s house? Doherty warns against doing this except for rare circumstances when:

1.       The tenant agrees to pay to have the vehicle towed.

2.       Your rental agreement addresses this.

3.       You are positive you are having it towed to the right place. Issues arise when the person moved, lives in an apartment complex or if you have it towed somewhere where it is then towed again because it was not dropped off legally.

Speaking of rental agreements, most include a common clause that towing is an option. “Most states require tenants be at least 60 days delinquent so be sure the number of days in your agreement are above the number of days required by law to have the vehicle towed,” says Doherty.

He advises whether you are someone who is comfortable selling vehicles or prefer to have them towed, to collect the same information: vehicle identification number, registration and proof of insurance. Not only do you want to make sure it isn’t stolen, no one wants the cops showing up at their facility.

“You want to include language regarding timing without getting too specific about issues such as the towing company you will use,” Doherty adds.

Doherty explains towing companies can typically do one of two things with the vehicles by following the DMV’s process: sell the vehicle or send it to a scrapyard. “The towing companies have experience dealing with these laws. Unless you are a storage operator that has significant amount of outdoor storage, you are probably not going to come across this that frequently where you are going to become an expert and feel comfortable executing the process correctly,” he cautions.

And that is ultimately the best reason to let a tow company take care of this for you.

About the Author

Katherine D’Agostino is the founder of Self-Storage Ninjas, a self-storage feasibility analysis firm delivering business plans and unbiased reports resulting in facilities with high occupancies and the highest possible returns. Contact Sensei Katherine via her website, www.selfstorageninjas.com.


Map of states that allow for towing or have pending legislation.

Map of states that allow for towing or have pending legislation.