Workshops battle with abandoned cars issue

Cars left abandoned at repair workshops are an inconvenience workshop owners face around the country.

Dewald Ranft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), says annually some workshops have over 25 vehicles left abandoned at their workshops. “As you can imagine having to deal with this issue is onerous on the workshop,” he says.

“As with any premises, space is valuable and these cars take up the equivalent of say 15 to 18 square metres each. If you equate that to what you would pay for a storage unit of similar size you are looking at over R1000 rental fee per day per vehicle. Along with the space issue, there is security to consider, movement costs (such as fuel needed to move the vehicle) and additional insurance costs,” explains Ranft.

He adds that general maintenance has to be done on the vehicles to ensure the workshop doesn’t start looking like a scrap heap. “A professional image is important for workshops so ensuring these abandoned cars are not neglected becomes an additional concern for the workshop owners.”

So why do car owners abandon their vehicles? Affordability of repairs, is the simple answer, says Ranft. “We are living in a time of an ever-tightening economy so unfortunately car owners are only repairing their vehicles when something breaks. The problem with this approach is that generally by the time something breaks, it is far more costly to repair than if the vehicle was regularly maintained. Also, there can be a knock-on effect as one broken part affects several others. The reality is that car owners will bring in their vehicles for repairs and then not have the money to pay for them, so leave their cars abandoned at the workshop.”

He points out that what the car owners of these abandoned vehicles may not realise is that they may be liable for the storage costs. “The repair workshop is well within its rights to include a storage fee rate in the contract signed by the vehicle owner, stipulating that a daily charge may accrue if the vehicle is abandoned.  If the customer does not claim the vehicle and a financial institution repossesses the vehicle, the car owner will be liable to the financial institution for all costs associated with the vehicle – including the storage fees accrued. This can amount to a hefty sum. These are costs that can be avoided,” he adds.

Ranft believes that regular maintenance at the required intervals is one way to reduce the amount of abandoned vehicles. Along with that, he urges car owners to request quotes upfront and to speak to their mechanic about communicating clearly should additional work be required once the vehicle is stripped. “Use a reputable workshop, like a MIWA-accredited workshop, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Discuss your options with the mechanic – there will always be a better solution than abandoning your vehicle,” he concludes.