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How To Get Your Car Back After A Repossession

Written by Mike Pearson
Updated August 9, 2022

In A Nutshell

Losing your car to repossession can be a frustrating and expensive situation to resolve. Repossession will typically take place because of missed or late loan payments, and you will have an agreement in place detailing how long you will have to resolve these. You will also have an agreement in place with the lender as to how long you will have to get the vehicle back before it is resold.

Is Car Reposessesion Legal?

Yes, your lender will be legally entitled to repossess your vehicle if you default on payments. This will be made clear in the terms and conditions of the loan agreement you sign when purchasing the car.

You will still have rights after repossession, and understanding these can help you to regain possession of the vehicle.

Getting Your Car Back After Repossession

It is possible to get the car back after repossession. Speaking to the lender as soon as possible to try and reinstate the loan is the best course of action to take. Typically, you will be afforded a set time period before the creditor is then legally entitled to resell the vehicle.

You should have the information in your original agreement, or you can speak to the lender to find out the timescale involved.

Alternatively, there are some other methods that can help you get your car back if it has been repossessed.

The Best Ways to Get Your Car Back After Repossession

Many people will go straight to Google to find out “how to get car back from repo,” but your first action should be to speak directly to the lender. Doing this as soon as possible and trying to work out a way for the return of the car is the best way to go about things.

Here are the best ways to ensure the return of a repossessed car;

Pay off your loan

This option might not be available to everyone as it involves getting the money together to pay off the remainder of the original balance, late or missed payments, and any repossession fees resulting from the car repossession.

It is likely that the lender would take you up on this because it ensures they receive all monies owed. There will be no outstanding debts with the repossession company, and no need for any further dealings as the debt will be fully paid off.

Reactivate the car loan

Another way to deal with car repossession is by arranging to reinstate the car loan. This will typically involve speaking with the original lender and paying any overdue bills. The repossession costs will also have to be covered by you.

Some lenders may require advance installment payments to ensure there are no further issues with falling behind, but this will be agreed upon with the lender.

Negotiate your loan agreement

If you find you are struggling with repayments, it is always better to try and renegotiate the auto loan terms prior to repossession. Sometimes the company may be willing to enter negotiations after repossession, but you will have to contact them directly to enquire.

Refinancing or renegotiating the terms of a loan agreement is not always possible, but the auto lender is still a business, and if it makes business sense and is a financially viable option, they may be open to discussing it.

You might be able to reduce the amount of your monthly payments by extending the terms. You should be aware that any renegotiations or extensions to an existing agreement could result in you paying more than initially agreed.

Bid for the car at auction

If you cannot renegotiate an agreement or agree on another way to reinstate your original deal and get the car back, it could be that the vehicle is then sold off at auction.

The lender will legally have to let you know when and where the auction is taking place, giving you an option to purchase it back at this point.

File for bankruptcy

The final option is one that you will have to give a lot of thought to: filing for bankruptcy. By doing this before the lender sells the car, an automatic stop is placed on any creditors attempting to collect from you.

If the car has already been repossessed, they will not be able to sell it. If it has not yet been repossessed, this will not be allowed either.

They may be able to fight this decision in court and speak with a bankruptcy attorney to find out whether your state laws will ensure you keep the car.

There will be other repercussions to filing for bankruptcy, and it will affect your credit report for a considerable time, so this should be a last resort.

Car Repossession FAQs

What happens to my personal property if my car is repossessed?

You will be entitled to collect personal belongings from inside the vehicle. There should be no charge to do this.

Does the lender have to notify me of repossession?

While it is typically in the lender’s best interest to give you a prior warning about repossession, it is not required in many cases. This will be detailed in the agreement, and the lender may stipulate that late payments can result in the repossession of the vehicle with no prior notice.

Can I legally hide my car from the repo man?

Hiding your vehicle is not recommended; instead, get in touch with the lender first.

However, in most states, as long as you are not trying to defraud the bank, hiding your vehicle is not illegal.

Repossession can take place legally as long as the person repossessing the vehicle doesn’t cause damage to the property of the person involved. Keeping a vehicle in a chained lock-up on your property can be a legal way of keeping it safe from repossession in some cases.

Can I Return the Car to the Lender if I Can’t Afford Repayments?

Returning the car to the lender is possible, but it might not clear your existing balance.

The return and resale of the vehicle may result in what is known as a deficiency balance. A deficiency balance is when the money brought in from selling the car does not cover selling fees and the remaining loan balance. This can result in you still having a bill to pay and no car to show for it.

You can discuss this with the lender and try to arrange a deal to avoid the cost and inconvenience they would face by repossessing the car. Surrendering the vehicle may be more cost-effective than repossession for you, as you would avoid the fees from the car repossession company.

Alternatively, you can arrange a private sale. This way, you will be in control of exactly how much you receive and whether it is enough to repay the auto loan company fully.

Final Thoughts

Nobody likes the thought of having their car repossessed, but it is a reality for those who have fallen behind with car payments or can no longer afford them.

Trying to arrange something with the lender immediately after falling into arrears is the best option. You may be able to agree on payment arrangements to suit both parties and avoid repossession expenses.

If the car is repossessed, you will then be able to look into the options advised above. It is important to remember that state laws vary, so exploring the legality of the options available to you is highly recommended.

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Mike Pearson


Mike is a recognized credit expert and founder of Credit Takeoff. His credit advice has been featured in Investopedia, CreditCards.com, Bankrate, Huffpost, The Simple Dollar, Reader's Digest, LendingTree, and Quickbooks. Read more.