If you’re trying to remove a repossession from your credit report to help repair your credit, you basically have three options:
- Negotiate your payment terms with the lender. If you can convince the lender that you’re capable of making on-time payments with a lower monthly cost, they may give you a second chance. Easier said than done.
- File a dispute to get it removed. If you think the repossession was reported in error, or inaccurate in some way, you could request that the credit bureaus remove it from your credit reports by filing a dispute.
- Hire a credit repair company to do it for you. If you hire out for help, a credit repair company can use their expertise and resources to try and remove the negative information for you, though there are no guarantees, and it will cost you a fee, using this option.
Let’s walk through each of these options so you can decide on the best recourse for your specific situation.
How can I remove a repossession from my credit report?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that negative marks like repossession be accurate. For example, if your account was sent to a collection agency because of a misspelled address or because of fraud, it should not appear on your report. Only real past-due accounts can be listed. And they can only appear once, not twice. If the repossession was an error, you should dispute it right away.
1. Negotiate your payment terms with the lender
If they’re feeling generous, the lender can allow you to negotiate the terms anew so that you can continue with your payments in exchange for the lender agreeing not to report the repossession.
You will have to convince them to allow you to retain the car and maybe reduce the monthly payments so that you pay for an extended time.
If they want your business enough and feel like giving you a second chance, they can contact the credit bureau and remove the repossession items from your report.
Just be sure to get any guarantees in writing, so you can dispute the entry if you find it hanging around your report later on.
2. File a dispute to remove it
If you believe the repossession on your credit report is inaccurate or incorrect information, you can file a dispute with the credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, Experian) to remove the item. This involves writing a letter and mailing it to the bureaus via certified mail.
If the lender cannot prove that the information is valid or fails to respond to your claim within 30 days, the item be removed from the credit report. If they fail to do so, you can contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to help you out.
Be sure to use certified mail while requesting a return receipt. Send your request to:
- Experian Dispute Department P.O. Box 4500 Allen, TX 75013
- Equifax Information Services LLC P.O. Box 740256 Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
- TransUnion Consumer Solutions P.O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016-2000
3. Hire a credit repair company to do it for you
If you don’t feel like negotiating with lenders or filing paperwork with the credit bureaus, you can hire a credit repair company to do all the work for you.
We recommend going with Credit Saint, who have helped thousands of clients.
They’ll likely end up following many of the same steps and using the same techniques, but they do have the experience and resources that you likely don’t have, which may work to your advantage.
Just know that there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to get the repossession information removed from your credit report and that it will cost you a fee, around $69-$99 per month for most credit repair services.
What is a credit report and why is it important?
A credit report is a detailed summary of your credit history. It includes information such as how much debt you’ve accumulated, how often you’ve missed payments, and how high your credit score is.
A credit report is important because it can help consumers understand your current financial situation and make better decisions about your money, which can greatly impact the quality of your life.
For example, if you know that you have a low credit score, you might be more likely to avoid taking on new debt. Alternatively, if you know that you have a good credit score, you might be more likely to take out a loan for a large purchase.
The two most common credit score providers are Fico score and VantageScore. You can get your credit score from a bank or a credit card company.
Good credit vs. bad credit
Credit is a measure of how likely you are to repay your debts. It’s determined by your credit score, which is a number that reflects your credit history.
If you have a high credit score, it means you’ve been a responsible borrower in the past with a positive payment history and are likely to continue to be in the future. This makes you a desirable borrower for lenders, which means you’ll get approved for auto loans, credit cards, and a mortgage with lower interest rates. You’ll also be able to borrow more money than someone with bad credit.
If you have bad credit, it means you’ve had trouble repaying debts in the past. This makes you a riskier borrower for lenders, which means you’ll likely get approved for loans and a credit card with higher interest rates. You’ll also be able to borrow less money than someone with good credit.
What is a repossession, anyway?
If you’ve ever fallen behind on your car payment for too long, you probably know what a repossession is—it’s when the car lender takes back possession of the car, sometimes without your permission or court order, because of those missed payments.
What gives the lender the right to seize your car?
Well, when you signed up for your auto loan, you might remember signing a lot of paperwork with the lender that contained certain terms and conditions—and one of those conditions gives the car lender the legal right to repossess your car if you fail to make your payments.
It’s important to know that these creditors don’t have carte blanche authority, however—most states have laws that govern how your creditor may repossess the vehicle, so it might be worth contacting your state Attorney General if you feel you’ve been mistreated.
What does the repossession process look like?
Did you know there are actually two types of repossessions?
One is “voluntary” and the other is “involuntary”.
A voluntary repo is when you proactively give your car back to the lender because you can no longer make the payments.
But the much more common type, and the focus of this guide—involuntary repossession—is when the lender comes to take the car back.
The process for an involuntary repossession is relatively straightforward and generally looks like this:
- You default on your loan or lease. Once you fail to make a payment with the lender, the repossession process begins and the lender is typically within their rights to take action to get the car back.
- The lender comes to take the car back. Once you’ve defaulted, most states allow the lender to seize the car, without notice or your consent. They will usually take any documents or signed contracts with them as evidence and then sell the vehicle at auction.
That’s pretty much the entire process, but there are a few important details to remember as a consumer:
- When seizing the vehicle, the lender may not commit a “breach of peace”—no physical force or even threats of force are permitted.
- If your creditor agreed to change your payment date at any time during your loan, the original contract may be invalid—just make sure you have the change in writing.
How to spot a repossession on your credit report
Repossessions are typically listed under the public records section of your credit report.
For example, on the Experian credit report, they give you a snapshot of your record right at the top—in this example, you can see there are zero public records, but if you have a repossession, the information would likely appear here:
If you’re unsure how to read over your credit report and what things you should look for, you can check out our guide on how to read your credit report.
Don’t have a copy of your credit report yet? You can get them for free in less than ten minutes. The first step is to visit Annual Credit Report.
Note that both voluntary and involuntary repossessions will appear on your credit report—so just know you don’t get a pass if you decide to voluntarily give up your car.
How long does it take a repossession to come off my credit report?
If you don’t do anything about it and just leave it, a repossession will stay on your credit report for seven years.
Obviously, this is a situation you want to avoid because having a repossession on your credit report that long will impact your credit score the entire time. That’s why we recommend trying one (or all three) of the options we mentioned earlier.
How will a repossession affect my credit score?
There are literally dozens of unique factors that go into calculating your credit score, so it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how a repossession will affect it—just know that the damage will likely be significant.
What’s even worse than the repossession itself are all the missed payments leading up to it.
Think about it: for your vehicle to get repossessed in the first place, it was because you had failed to make a payment—which is the most important factor when it comes to calculating your credit score. And so all of those missed payments were destroying your credit score the entire time. The repossession listing was just the icing on top, so to speak.
Worse still, the lender could decide to chase you in court to get a deficiency judgment for the outstanding balance, and the collection related to the judgment will also show up on your report and impact your score.
There are also significant fees you will incur during the repo process, including towing fees, storage fees, and late fees charged with interest.
So, while it’s difficult to know exactly how many points your score will drop, do know the consequences of a repossession are not to be taken lightly.
Can I get a car loan after a repossession?
Let’s put it this way: if people do find a lender willing to take a shot on you by giving you a car loan while you have a repossession on your credit report, the interest rates they’ll offer you will be astronomical.
The best approach, all things considered, is to deal with the repossession first to remove the item before trying to get a loan for another car and potentially falling further into debt.
How to prevent repossessions in the future
The easy answer here is that to prevent your vehicle from getting repossessed again down the line, you just need to pay your car loan on time. And that is true.
But the deeper issue here is probably your budget or your income or some combination of the two. Because at the end of the day, when you go late on paying off a debt, it’s either because you’re spending more money than you take in, or you’re simply not making enough money to finance your lifestyle—or likely both.
Here are some tips for making sure you stay out of debt and don’t find yourself in this situation again:
- Only take on a monthly payment you can reasonably afford.
- Make sure to include a line item in your monthly budget for your car loan.
- If you find yourself falling behind on payment, try to restructure the loan with the lender—some of them may be understanding.
- If you can’t restructure the loan, return the car and pay off any outstanding debt as soon as possible
Are co-signers responsible for a repossession?
If you got someone to co-sign on your car loan and the car gets repossessed, they could be on the hook for the remainder of the loan amount.
The co-signer does have some legal rights in the case of the original borrower not being able to pay off the loan.
How to improve your credit report after repossession
If you have had a repossession on your credit report, there are ways that you can improve your credit score.
One way is to make sure that you keep all of your bills current and up to date. You should also make sure that you do not have any late payments on your credit report.
Another way to improve your credit score is to get a copy of your credit report and check it for errors. If you find any errors, you can dispute them with the credit bureau.
You should also make sure that you have a good credit mix on your credit report. This means that you should have both installment loans and revolving loans on your credit report. Having a good credit mix can help improve your credit score.
You can fix your credit by taking out new, smaller loans that you can repay in installments. This is helpful for people who have just filed for bankruptcy.
Finally, you should try to keep your credit utilization low. This means that you should not have more than 30% of your total available credit used at any time.
Let’s face it: no one wants to get their vehicle repossessed and have their credit score damaged as a result.
You do have a few options to remove a repossession from your credit report—a credit repair company will be the fastest, easiest choice, though it will cost some cash.
If you want to go the DIY route, you can try either negotiating with your lender or disputing the item with the credit bureaus.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “If I can’t make my auto loan payments, will my vehicle be repossessed?”
- Federal Trade Commission. “Disputing Errors On Your Credit Reports”
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “What if the lender offers to just take the vehicle back and forgive the loan? Will it affect my credit report?”
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “Don’t Be Misled by Companies Offering Paid Credit Repair Services”
- Federal Trade Commission. “Credit Repair Organizations Act”
- VantageScore. “Consumer Credit Score Migration – Will the consumer I approve today still be credit-worthy tomorrow?”
- Experian. “How Does a Repossession Affect Your Credit?”
- VantageScore. “How is this going to impact my credit score?”
- Finred. “Credit Management”