What happens to abandoned vehicles?

  • These two cars were abandoned by the operator after a crash and picked up by Mike's Towing in Bennington. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • These two cars were abandoned by the operator after a crash and picked up by Mike's Towing in Bennington. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • These two cars were abandoned by the operator after a crash and picked up by Mike's Towing in Bennington. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/19/2020 1:18:52 PM

Have you ever wondered what happens to abandoned vehicles? What if nobody ever claims that car with a boot on it on a street in Manchester, or that crashed SUV after it was towed off the road?

The cars might wind up on the premises of two local towing companies: Mike’s Towing in Bennington, or the Rindge workshop for Alpha Omega Towing.

Christopher Vergato had never thought about dealing in abandoned vehicles when he bought Alpha Omega Towing last Sept., but the former owner showed him how to acquire and sell the abandoned vehicles they periodically encounter while patrolling lots in Manchester.  Usually, when a vehicle owner discovers their car’s been towed, they’ll call the police, who explain what happened and they pay the towing cost, Vergato said.

“Otherwise, they have 15 to 20 days on our lot,” he said, after which the towing company starts filling out abandoned paperwork with the state. Vergato sends a registered letter to the last person the vehicle was titled to. It’s considered officially abandoned if he doesn’t hear anything for 15 days, he said. “Our company now basically has a lien on that vehicle,” he said, and they’re free to sell them off. Recently, the company sold two vehicles of the 16 stored at the workshop Vergato leases in Rindge.

Sometimes people abandon their vehicles because they can’t pay the towing fees, and other times they don’t think the vehicle is worth the fees. “Or they don’t even contact us,” Vergato said. One of the vehicles his company held turned out to have been stolen and abandoned. The insurance company that had taken possession of the vehicle when it was stolen paid the charges and storage fees that time, he said.

Abandoned cars are sold with paperwork for the new owners to change the title over to their names, Vergato said, and sometimes his company can even provide the keys if the former owner sends them over. Others are sold without the keys, since it costs $200 or more to get a replacement made. Alpha Omega takes care of VIN verifications in advance, and will even fix up the more valuable abandoned vehicles before selling them, he said.

Is selling abandoned vehicles worth the effort? “It has its ups and downs,” Vergato said, and that sales are currently slow. He said he intends to auction vehicles once a month once business picks back up as the Stay At Home orders expire.

“It’s a community service,” Mike Palmer, of Mike’s Towing in Bennington, said of the abandoned vehicles he sells for scrap. When a fully insured vehicle is totaled in an accident, the insurance company buys the vehicle back and takes it to an auction or a junkyard, co-owner Chandee Palmer said. If the car isn’t insured, the owner can either junk it themselves at a scrapyard or turn over the title to Mike’s Towing in exchange for a discount on the tow, a courtesy the company offers, she said. 

It makes little monetary sense to sell vehicles for scrap since a light sedan is only worth about $75 in scrap right now, Mike said, hardly enough to cover the fuel costs for their big tow truck. The wreck effectively becomes a large piece of litter in the instances when nobody pays for the disposal, he said, and that, in his sometimes it’s easier to fine people for littering than for abandoning a whole vehicle.

The Palmers scrap vehicles through a buyer in Tilton, Chandee said, and sometimes they hold onto vehicles so police and fire departments in surrounding towns can come to their property and practice using jaws of life or other rescue techniques.


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