Just about everyone knows that when you finance a truck or car on credit that you generally pay off that debt via monthly payments. You probably also know that the bank or financial institution that loaned the money has done so under certain conditions – like the monthly payments need to be paid on time.  If you don’t, the financial institution has the right to come and get the vehicle.

The people who get the vehicles are called repossession agents or “repo men.” Repo men have a challenging job to do. First they have to locate the vehicle, which isn’t always easy because borrowers often move around. Then they have to get the vehicle which definitely isn’t easy because few borrowers want “their” vehicle taken away.

So, how do repo men repossess cars and trucks when the borrowers don’t want you to?  The technique is to do it quickly. An experienced repo man can hook the towing apparatus up and drive off in about 10 seconds -- all without ever leaving the truck's cab.  But to do this requires specially designed equipment. Let’s take a look at the types of trucks that repo men use.

The standard tow truck

Tow trucks have been around for about as long as there have been cars.  Over the years the design of tow trucks has changed a great deal, however.  Early tow trucks used chains or hooks that wrapped around the vehicles axles or frame rail. Some tow truck operators still use this technique. Humes Chrysler of Waterford, PA, a long time Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, Jeep dealer says this method may be the old way to do things but is very secure. The downside for a repo man is that it takes a fair amount of time to get the vehicle into position to hook everything up.  

Wheel lift trucks

There are special truck-mounted tow systems that slide under a car and only touch the tires. The way it works is that the repo man slides a bracket under the vehicle and then he/she fits brackets in front of and behind the drive wheels of the vehicle.  When the tow truck mechanism lifts the vehicle, the wheels are cradled between the brackets. This method of towing requires the repo agent to get out of the truck to position the brackets in place and insert the pins – a process that takes about 30 seconds.

Integrated lifts

The latest evolution in tow truck technology is the integrated lift, also known as a self-loading wrecker. This is a specially designed wheel-lift system that can be controlled inside the truck. As the truck backs up to the target vehicle, a long arm extends out along the pavement. The front edge of the cradle bracket contacts the tires as the other side of the cradle slides under the vehicle. The brackets are then closed via hydraulics, cradling the tires on both sides. The tow boom is then lifted, and the tow truck can pull away.

Flat bed trucks

You have undoubtedly seen a flat bed truck tow a car. The flatbed can be hydraulically inclined  and a cable winch pulls the vehicle onto the bed. Using a flatbed truck for repo work generally isn't an optimum  solution as flatbeds aren't especially stealthy. They are physically large trucks and it takes a fair amount of time to tilt the bed, connect the winch, pull the vehicle and then secure it. Flatbed trucks aren’t used for repo work very often.

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