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The Tales of Linda's Lemons
LINDA GETS TOWED

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Linda is an attractive lady, late twenties, with an uncanny ability to buy one unreliable car after the other. We work on her car from time to time, often after her current boyfriend or a big chain car repair shop has "fixed" it first
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Linda called me first thing Monday morning. She was sobbing so loudly I could barely understand her. I finally understood the details: her new boyfriend, Beaux, had wrecked her car. She wanted me to look at it and see if it could be fixed.
I went over to her apartment expecting to see the car there. She said that it wasn't there: that the police had towed it away! This seemed odd to me: police will never just "tow a car away" in case of an accident. They ALWAYS ask you if you'd like to call your own tow company or if they should call a tow truck for you. Beaux filled me in on more details:
The accident had actually occurred on the previous Friday late in the afternoon.

Beaux had been trying to "beat a light" that had turned yellow. He didn't make it. He ran into the side of a full size Chrysler van.

"I'm thinking of sueing the city!" Beaux said. "That light turned red way faster than it should have!"

Lots of luck with that, I thought.

Since Beaux "didn't know of a tow truck company" he let the police call a tow truck for him. The "helpful tow truck driver" told Beaux that he would be happy to take the car to the tow company's storage yard. He also said the charge would be the same whether he picked the car up that evening, Saturday, or Monday.

Beaux, Linda, and I set out for the tow company to look at Linda's car. The tow company operated out of a local gas station, but they had a storage yard on the other side of town. Before we left for the storage yard, Linda asked what the tow bill was. BIG SURPRISE!

She had expected a $125 tow bill. That was what the driver had told Beaux when the accident occurred.

BUT THAT WAS JUST THE START!!!

They charged her 4 days storage at $75 per day, plus a $25 "Gate Fee" (whatever that is: I guess it's the cost of opening the gate to their storage yard).

Total bill: $450 !!!!

I took Beaux and Linda aside and told them to just take the bill and not say anything: just go to the storage lot and look at the car first.

The car was a sad sight. Really a shame, because Linda had finally taken my advice and bought a really good car: a yellow 1992 Toyota Camry. It had over 100,000 miles on it, but I had just done quite a bit of work on it, putting it in good condition. From experience I know Camrys last for 200,000 or more miles when properly maintained.
Unfortunately this Camry wasn't worth fixing. It had a wrinkle across the top of the roof, meaning the entire car was "bent". The front was crumpled back about 2 feet, and one front tire was hanging off to the side at a 45 degree angle. I advised Linda to get her personal stuff out of the car and leave it with them.

Back at the tow company office, the manager said that if Linda would bring him the title to the car, he would stop charging $75 per day storage. I told Linda and Beaux to leave: I had some advice for them.

As I drove them back to their apartment, I gave them the "lowdown" on dealing with tow companies. I advised them to just give the tow company the title and nothing else. Perhaps they should pay the original $125 tow bill, but NO WAY they should pay that extra money, especially if they were giving them the title! I told them most people in that situation just abandon the car with them and don't even give them a title or pay for the tow!

"But won't they arrest us?", Beaux asked. "After all, the police called the tow truck: I don't want to get in trouble with the police!"

I explained that the police have a "rotation" of tow companies in town that they call, but that the tow companies have nothing to do with the police. The very worst thing that could happen is that the tow company could take them to small claims court. In that case, the worst that could happen is you might lose and have to pay the original bill, possibly $25 in court costs.

In reality I've never heard of this happening. I told them it was just like one of those mini-warehouse storage things: you don't pay the rent, the eventually cut the lock off and sell your stuff. Sure, you owe them money, but they don't sue you.

Besides, I told them, if you give them the title you have given them the car. The car has some value, even if it's wrecked. You could claim the value of the car equals the value of the towing and storage. This would be a viable arguement in court, in the unlikely case it ever got that far.

I left them after giving this advice: obviously Linda and Beaux had lots of things to discuss.


I saw Linda a few days later at the grocery store and asked her what they had done about the car. Linda said she had gotten Beaux to take them the signed title and pay them $475. "$475!!!" I said. " I thought it was only $450!!" "Yes", she replied. "But they charged another $25 gate fee for when we went out to look at it."

I asked her why she hadn't taken my advice.

She said," Oh, it's OK: I didn't pay for it. Beaux paid. And trust me: He's going to keep on paying.... for a LONG time!!!"

Suddenly I felt really sorry for Beaux!


THE MORAL OF THE STORY: WHAT TO DO IF YOU WRECK YOUR CAR

First, don't let the police call a tow truck for you unless you absolutely have to. If you have AAA towing coverage, use it. Or try calling a tow truck on your own: You'll get a much better price.

If you can't look for a tow company on your own, and use the police rotation tow company, don't let them tow it to their storage yard!!! They will stick you with all sorts of inflated charges!

If you have a regular mechanic in town, get it towed to that shop. Or have it towed to your house or apartment: You can find a reasonable tow price to get it to a shop from there. If you decide the car can't be fixed, most junkyards will tow it away for free, maybe even pay you a bit for it!

If you're in a strange town, get it towed to a body shop, or the local new car dealer. Repair facilities won't charge you any storage, at least for the first few days.

Finally, if you DO end up in a situation like Linda with your car in hock over a towing and storage bill, try giving them the title. Perhaps pay any reasonable tow charges.That's more than most people do! Most folks leave them with the car, no title, and the tow company never sees them again! The worst that can happen is they might sue you in small claims court, and I've never heard of that happening, especially if you have given them the title. Remember: a wrecked car still has value: at least $75-$100 just for recycle weight. Of course I'm not recommending not paying for a reasonable tow service: Just don't get ripped off for storage charges, and remember that a bill incurred without your permission is nearly always negotioable!



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Thank you for visiting the ECONOMECHANIX WEB SITE. Please feel free to comment. We also serve the surrounding communities of Alachua, High Springs, Hawthorne, and Newberry! Gainesville has been my home since 1974, and I've loved Gvl and the Gators since I came here in the fall of 1974 to attend the University of Florida. I loved it so much I stayed and opened my car repair business. Originally it was out of the back of a 1963 Chevrolet wagon, but in 1977 a fellow mechanic and I opened an auto repair shop with actual walls, etc. I stayed in the same location for 26 years, and recently moved my operation to property I bought 15 miles east of Gainesville. I am doing most all the repairs myself now, having reduced my overhead from $1500 per month to practically nothing. I do work by appointment only. I mostly work only on my established customers cars, but I will occasionally take on new clients. E-mail me and I will either make arrangements to look at your car, or I will recommend you to someone who will.

George G. Scott, Jr.


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Auto, Car, and Truck Article List

A
ABS: Anti-Lock Brake Systems
ADVANCE: Car ignition timing
ALTERNATORS and Car Battery
AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSIONS
B
BATTERIES: Auto, Car or Truck
BELTS AND HOSES
BEARINGS
BODY AND BUMPER REPAIRS
BRAKE REPAIRS: Car or Truck
C
CARBURETORS:Car & Truck
CHECK ENGINE LIGHT
CLEANING: Engine Cleaning
CLUTCH REPAIRS: Car & Truck
COMPRESSION: Car Engine
COMPUTER CAR CONTROLS
CV JOINT OR CV AXLES
D
DISTRIBUTORS (IGNITION)
E
ENGINES: Car & Truck
ENGINE CLEANING
EXPANSION PLUGS
F
FREEZE PLUGS
FUEL AIR MIXTURE
FUEL INJECTION: Car & Truck
FUEL PUMPS: Car & Truck
G
GAGES AND "IDIOT LIGHTS"
GASKETS AND SEALS
GLASS: WINDOWS AND WINDSHIELDS
H
HEADS & HEAD GASKET
HOSES AND BELTS
I
"IDIOT LIGHTS" AND GAGES
IGNITION TIMING: Car & Truck
J
AUTO JACKS: lifting cars safely
K
L
LEAN "Car runs lean"
LIGHTS: WARNING OR "IDIOT LIGHTS"
Limp Home Mode
M
MIL Light
MANUAL TRANSMISSIONS
N
NO START: Car Won't Start
O
OIL CHANGES
OIL: What's right for your car?
OIL LIGHT ON OR GAGE LOW
P
PCV Valve
Q
R
RADIATORS: Car and Truck
RICH: Car runs rich
S
SEALS AND GASKETS
SERVICE ENGINE SOON LIGHT
SPARK PLUGS
STARTERS: Auto, Truck
T
THERMOSTATS
TIMING: IGNITION TIMING
TIMING BELT & TIMING CHAIN
TIRE REPAIR
TRANSMISSIONS: AUTOMATIC
TRANSMISSIONS: MANUAL
U
V
VACUUM ADVANCE
WARNING LIGHTS OR "IDIOT LIGHTS"
W
WATER PUMP REPAIR
WINDOWS AND WINDSHIELDS
X
Y
Z

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