Semi-Abandoned Car, how to proceed?
April 3, 2012 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Helping a guy down on his luck, who knew someone who knew someone who I knew, I agreed to let him store a car on my property for an undefined time. The car was brought in on a flatbed, and placed. Two years later, we can no longer store the car, and need to figure out what to do. The owner has no money to pay to store it anywhere, and no place of his own to keep it. What can I do to a) find a new home for this car, b) make sure it doesn't stay here indefinitely?

The owner knew someone who knew someone who knew me, and I agreed to store his older car. He's a cancer survivor, and has been financially crippled by the ordeal. He's presently living out of his van, and has no place to put this car. I've tried asking around, and posted requests for help on Craigslist, but no one has expressed interest. I've given him a deadline of May 1st to find a new home for the car, although I'm not sure what to do when that deadline arrives. Do I report the vehicle as abandoned? It has great sentimental value to him, and he doesn't want to sell it or junk it, but that may be the only option. I don't want to kick this guy while he's down, but I can't keep it here any longer. I appreciate any thoughts on the matter.
posted by daboo to Law & Government (20 answers total)
If you can't keep it, and he can't keep it, the only answer is to sell it. That's not kicking him while he's down, that's reality. Kicking him while he's down would be having it towed or donating it and then telling him, tough luck.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:48 AM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

Can you go back to the person you knew who knew the guy who knew him? It strikes me that they were the people who networked to find you in the first place, so maybe they can do the networking to find someone else.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:49 AM on April 3, 2012

Ya, he's tapping those same people trying to find a new place.
posted by daboo at 10:50 AM on April 3, 2012

Sounds like he has to make a choice, either sell it for parts or donate it. You're not kicking him when he's down, you stored it for 2 years which is a long time. Maybe take a nice photo of it & frame it for him, or give him a laminated walletsized photo. That's what I do w/sentimental things before I part ways w/them.
posted by headnsouth at 10:50 AM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

This is something this guy hasn't used -- or even seen possibly? In 2 years? He needs to sell it. It's hurting him to have it exist. If you are feeling very generous you could offer to sell it, but you've done a lot, and if he won't agree to that plan then yes, absolutely have it towed as abandoned. This is an object -- not a pet or even a plant -- that he has no ability to take care of. It needs to go.
posted by brainmouse at 10:55 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think you're going to have to deal out some tough love.
You've carried it for two years, and now the time has come for you to part ways with it.
I would give him a liberal but FIRM deadline.
Before that deadline he needs to a) move it elsewhere, b) junk it, c) sell it.
During that deadline, I would also be investigating what I could do with it LEGALLY should a, b, or c above not happen.
Since he's the title holder, your options may be limited.
posted by THAT William Mize at 10:58 AM on April 3, 2012

scrap cars sell for $300. Minus tow fees he is looking at a $200 pay day. If the car was old and towed in and cannot be driven its not worth anything as a car; but $200 in hand for something that he clearly does not use is not a bad deal.
posted by Felex at 11:00 AM on April 3, 2012

If you can't get him to get rid of it somehow (and it sounds like you haven't had any luck trying to sell it), I would donate it to a charity for the tax benefit. Kicking him when he's down would have been refusing to store it all this time. You've already done your good deed and now it's time for him to take charge of the problem.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 11:20 AM on April 3, 2012

I've given him a deadline of May 1st to find a new home for the car, although I'm not sure what to do when that deadline arrives.

Call your local government and find out what your options are. You may be able to report it as abandoned on private property, and your city will give the car's owner notice that he has some number of weeks to remove the car.

You're not kicking him while he's down. You've done a very generous thing by storing his car, and now that you can't it's his responsibility to either make other arrangements or lose the car. You've been especially generous in your efforts to find a new storage option for the car. You've done all that you can--and much more than you had to. Although it's natural to feel pity for someone in such difficult personal circumstances, there is nothing for you to feel guilty about in terms of following through on your deadline.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:21 AM on April 3, 2012

Look, I know I am super Marxist about this stuff, but they guy is living in his van. I mean you can take a hard line on this with a 30 day deadline, but do you have to? How much does it cost to store a car at a car storage place? It seems like you can do that for $45 a month and a bunch of places will give you a week or a month free. Can you set him up with 3, 6 or even 12 months of pre-paid storage to give him more time? I have $60 in my PayPal account; you can have it towards flatbedding.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:03 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

If this was his only vehicle, and was couch surfing or living on the streets, getting rid of his only working car might be pushing it.

But the car hasn't been working in how long? I assume it would need new tires, a battery and who knows what else, just to get it driving again? Would it even be drivable then? More importantly, he already HAS a vehicle, and doesn't have space or money.

Help him figure out how to sell it. It's only going to lose even more value as it continues to sit unused. Paying for storage, then paying a bunch to get it going again, it just doesn't sound like a viable plan for the year future, and that money would be better spent paying bills or towards a new car.

What kind of car is it? Do you know the approximate value?

You might push it to June 1, if you're in any position to do so. But you're right to have a deadline, otherwise this might never end, and it's no longer helping this guy anyway.
posted by barnone at 12:13 PM on April 3, 2012

It's an older diesel Jetta. I don't know the value, but I imagine it isn't very much. He hasn't used it in that time, and I'm unsure of it's mechanical condition. He says it was running when he left it, but it did need to be brought in on a flatbed. I think his hope is to get it somewhere safe, so he can get it into working order again when he's a little more on his feet. That will take longer, and require a different location than a storage place would afford.
posted by daboo at 12:24 PM on April 3, 2012

Where are you?
posted by phearlez at 12:26 PM on April 3, 2012

Connecticut, USA
posted by daboo at 12:28 PM on April 3, 2012

This might be a nutty idea, but. Back in the dark ages when I was in high school (1980s), the high schools taught kids who were not college-bound a variety of trades, like AC repair, plumbing, and car mechanics. They were always looking for cars the students could fix, because it would take a semester or longer for even a paint job and few people wanted to wait that long for car repair.

You paid a very small sum of money, though. I don't know your area but googling I see the Platt Technical High School, which is in Milford, CT. They teach auto mechanics (body work and mechanics)! For maybe what it would cost you to store a vehicle for a few months, maybe they would keep (and get completely in working condition) in a year. That would give the guy a year to improve his situation, and students the chance to learn, and the guy would have the car in working condition at the end. It might be worth at least a phone call to the school explaining the good-deed deal, and a phone call to the friends who originally set up the situation with you storing the car.

Could even make a good PR story for the school, or for a quick fundraiser to bring in money for the school to repair the car, should anyone be so inclined.
posted by Houstonian at 4:12 PM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

I think his hope is to get it somewhere safe, so he can get it into working order again when he's a little more on his feet. That will take longer, and require a different location than a storage place would afford.

Storage solves the "longer" part. Realistically, you can force him to sell now or buy him more time while exiting as a player in this drama. But I like Houstonian's wonderful idea best.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:17 PM on April 3, 2012

A bit more research, if you are interested in the high school angle. It seems Platt is part of the Connecticut Technical High School System. Basically, what used to be called Vo-Tech (vocational technology). There are 17 schools in this system, listed in this Wikipedia article. The main website for the school system is here. A search on their website shows (198 results for "community service"!) that they have a great interest in community service, and a few of the search results discuss how they see their greatly reduced prices as part of (but not the whole of) community service.
posted by Houstonian at 4:43 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

That is quite a good idea. Nice suggestion!
posted by daboo at 6:57 AM on April 4, 2012

I recently sold a 1999 Jetta (not diesel) to a guy who converts them to biofuel for $450 (and he picked it up). This car had been sitting since it threw a rod in December of 2005, so it was really, really not in working order.

If you're not able to do the HS thing, talk with him about selling it on Craigslist. There is thriving VW community out there who will likely pay (relatively) top dollar for this car, money which could certainly be useful to a guy living out of his van.
posted by anastasiav at 5:10 PM on April 4, 2012

If the car is working, is there some way to sort of rent it or loan it to someone who is down on their luck and needs a car to start a new job and thereby get a headstart on their troubled life? Maybe the legal issues of insurance would be more hassle than it's worth, but if you can convince someone else to "store" the car and they end up driving it around, then it's off your hands and it helps someone else.
posted by CathyG at 7:42 PM on April 5, 2012

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