Abandoning cars in paradise: tow companies struggle to find space for vehicles

Written by: 
Kevin Brown

Those visiting the islands of Hawaii expect to find pristine beaches and picturesque mountains, but along Kamehameha Highway people can see one of the problems plaguing public roads−abandoned vehicles.

The City and County of Honolulu said around 300 abandoned vehicles are currently on the lot of Ace Towing belong to military personal who have since left the island.

In a report from KHON2 News, Randy Leong, the deputy director of the city’s Department of Customer Services, said, “CSD has engaged in ongoing discussions with the military leaders to identity vehicles and disseminate information to their service members regarding the available manner to dispose of the vehicles.”

More vehicles may be left on the streets until the city finds more space for the abandoned vehicles, according to Hawaii News Now. A common place for people to abandon these vehicles is on the windward side of Oahu, one of the least populated areas of the island, reported Hawaii News Now.

Sheri Kajiwara, director of the Department of Customer Services, said the process of removing vehicles on the island is complicated because the vehicles must go through federal screening procedures to protect the rights of the vehicle owners. This process gives the public false expectations of the city’s ability to remove these vehicles, she added.

Cars can be harder to tow when they have been stripped of their wheels and other parts, according to contracted tow companies in the area. The drop in the price of scrap metal also doesn’t motivate companies to collect cars.

Hawaii News Now reported the typical order of events when someone abandons a vehicle: the car is left in a less-populated area of the island, begins to be stripped for parts during the night, and then stays put until the City and County of Honolulu schedules a pickup from a contracted towing company.

To clarify which vehicles are eligible to be towed, the Department of Customer Services said any vehicle left unattended “on public roadways that has not been attended to for more than 24 hours” is considered abandoned.

The State of Hawaii asks those who see abandoned vehicles on public roadways to report them to the Department of Customer Services on its webpage and include the location and vehicle information.

If the car is traced back to an individual, the price tag can be hefty. According to the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, the “maximum amount that can be charged for towing an unattended vehicle is $65, or $75 for a tow using a dolly.

“In addition, the towing company may charge a mileage charge of $7.50 per mile towed and $25 per day or fraction of a day for storage for the first seven days, and $20 per day, thereafter.”

The car may also not have been intentionally left on a public roadway and still be towed. A representative from the Honolulu Police Department said, “Officers can investigate, and if the vehicle poses a safety risk, or it has an expired safety check decal or expired tax decal, the vehicle may be towed.”

According to Hawaii News Now, the problem not only persists on Oahu, but also on the islands of Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island.

To relieve some space at tow yards, the City of Honolulu holds an auction for abandoned vehicles every month. However, KHON2 News states federal law prohibits the city from auctioning cars belonging to military personal. 

The website of Integrity Towing, a tow company located in Aiea, also says it offers up to $200 for collecting abandoned vehicles and taking them to be recycled. 

Date Published: 
Saturday, September 2, 2017
Last Edited: 
Saturday, September 2, 2017

NOTE: This story is featured in the Sept. 2017 print issue.