How to Build a Repo Truck

by Bridget Lewison; Updated September 26, 2017

For repossessors, getting the job done swiftly, safely and reliably is vital. When building a truck to perform vehicle repossessions, safety should be your first concern. Obtaining the best equipment possible--and having it properly installed--will pay off not only in a more successful career, but could possibly prevent injuries to yourself and help prevent damage to your client's collateral.

Items you will need

  • Wheel-lift or sling-lift kit
  • A 3/4-ton or larger truck
  • E-rated or 10-ply tires for towing
  • Frame and suspension reinforcements
  • Tow dollies
Step 1

Get to know what equipment other repossessors are using and what has performed well for them. Also find out who in your area is capable of properly installing a wheel lift or a sling lift, such as a shop that specializes in tow equipment. If you can't locate someone in your area who knows how to install repossession equipment, seek out shops with experienced fabricators and hydraulic experts who understand the components that are part of a wheel lift or sling lift.

Step 2

Decide on which type of wheel lift or sling lift you would like to have installed on your truck and order the parts recommended for your tow vehicle by the manufacturer. Be sure you have all of the necessary equipment to modify your vehicle's suspension for the demands of towing. Airbags and counterweights are among the items you may need. Be sure the tires on your truck can handle the job.

Step 3

Know which required equipment and safety modifications you will be required to have by law, such as special lighting and markings, gas cans and fire extinguishers. Now is the time to decide where you are going to place these items in and on your truck. Purchase a set of tow dollies to keep on your repo truck; this is vital equipment that will enable you to transport all-wheel-drive vehicles.

Step 4

Work with your installer to be sure everything you are required to have will be included in the build; you don't want to realize something has been left out during the installation process. Take time to review all the informational material that accompanies your wheel lift or sling lift; manufacturers are always upgrading equipment, and your model may vary slightly from one installed on a fellow repossessor's vehicle just a few years earlier.

Step 5

Practice. Once your repossession truck is operable, gain access to an inoperable "junk" vehicle should you accidentally do damage while getting to know your lift. Know how your safety chains and straps work. Never, ever scrimp on these items; always get the heaviest-duty equipment you can find, even if it may seem like overkill.

Step 6

Keep up on the maintenance of your rig. Even a tiny leak should be dealt with immediately; you don't want to have a hydraulic failure in the middle of repossessing someone's vehicle. Not only would it be embarrassing, it could potentially be dangerous.

Tips

  • While many repossessors still use sling lifts with much success, some believe this type of equipment is becoming obsolete. Sling lifts are designed for heavy-duty applications, and, unless the repossessor is knowledgeable in its use, this type of lift can sometimes cause costly front-end damage to low-profile passenger cars.

    Requirements for tow trucks vary by state; make sure your intended tow vehicle is legal for use in repossessions in your area.

About the Author

Since 1992 Bridget Lewison has worked in practically all aspects of the newspaper business. Her work has appeared in "The Pasadena Star-News," the "Inland Valley Daily Bulletin," the "Mohave Valley Daily News," the "Kingman Standard," the "Arizona Independent" and the "Las Vegas Tribune." Her work also has been distributed by the Associated Press. From 2001-03 Lewison ran Pitzer College's public-relations office.