Otto Maddox (Emilio Estevez), a young punk rocker living in Los Angeles, gets fired from his boring job as a supermarket stock clerk. He learns that his pot-smoking, ex-hippie parents have donated the money they promised him for finishing school to a crooked televangelist. Depressed and broke, Otto wanders the streets, until he falls in with Bud (Harry Dean Stanton), a seasoned repossession agent, or 'repo man', working for the 'Helping Hand Acceptance Corporation' (a small automobile repossession agency). Although Otto is initially disgusted by the concept of repossessing cars, his opinion changes rapidly when he is quickly paid in cash for his first 'job'. Otto joins the agency as a repo man himself.
Otto soon learns that, as Bud had told him, 'the life of a repo man is always intense.' He enjoys the fast life style, the drug use, the real-life car chases, the thrill of hotwiring cars and the good pay. His old lifestyle seems boring by comparison.
Otto meets a girl named Leila (Olivia Barash), who tells him that a 1964 Chevrolet Malibu from New Mexico contains four dead but still dangerous space-aliens in its trunk. Otto doesn't believe her, but the next day he reads that a reward of $20,000 is offered for the Malibu. Otto, Leila, a secret government agent, and rival Mexican repo men, the Rodriguez Brothers (Del Zamora and Eddie Velez), all compete with each other to find and deliver the Malibu, which is being driven around Los Angeles by a scientist (Fox Harris), who originally stole the aliens from Los Alamos National Laboratory and drove to California, slowly losing his sanity on the way due to the radiation emitted by the aliens.