Although state laws vary, lenders generally have the right to repossess your car after you miss making just a single payment. As a rule, most loan contracts stipulate that if you default on your car loan by failing to make all the payments, the lender can repossess your vehicle.
Check first to see if the finance company is willing to work with you, especially if a legitimate, unforeseeable event is the reason for you falling behind on your car payments.
Read your loan agreement carefully. Your contract should define what represents default and what you can expect if you fail to make your loan payments. Along with outlining the finance company’s policy for repossessing a vehicle, your loan contract should explain your rights in the event your vehicle is repossessed.
While the finance company can repossess your vehicle if you fail to repay the loan according to the terms of your agreement, many states have specific laws governing the process.
Once you default on your monthly car loan payments, the finance company can demand that you pay the balance of your loan in full. If you dont pay, the creditor can legally repossess your car, and, in many states, can do it without giving you prior notice.
Once a finance company repossesses a vehicle, it usually sells the auto at a public or private auction to recover some of the money it loses when a borrower defaults on a loan. State laws sometimes require the creditor to notify you when the vehicle will be sold, giving you the chance to buy back your car.
Even so, you will be responsible for paying any additional fees the finance company incurred to repossess the vehicle.
In cases where a repossessed auto sells for less than its market value, if you don’t pay the remaining balance you still owe on the loan, the lender can collect by getting a judgment against you. Even when your car is repossessed, you can end up paying the difference on a vehicle you no longer have. To make matters worse, your credit score will take a hard hit and the repossession won’t look good on your credit report.
If you are experiencing financial troubles, contact the finance company before you risk vehicle repossession. In fact, talk to the creditor as soon as you realize you might not be able to make your loan payment by the due date.
Explain why you will be late with your payment and ask if the finance company will waive any late fees or penalties if you make the next payment on time. Another alternative when you can no longer afford your car payments is to ask whether you can refinance the loan.
Refinancing to a lower interest rate or to extend the term of your loan can lower your monthly payments enough to make your car loan more manageable.