If financial problems mean that you are unable to continue paying for your vehicle, it is important to find a solution to this problem, preferably on your own terms. Giving the vehicle back to the bank is just one possible resolution. Be sure to contact the bank or finance company holding the note and let them know about your problems. They may be able to work with you toward a solution.
If you are unable to pay for your vehicle, you can arrange to give the vehicle back to the bank as a voluntary repossession. To arrange this, call the bank you owe and let them know that you cannot afford the vehicle any longer. Tell the bank employee that you would like to surrender the vehicle in a voluntary repossession. The bank may arrange for you to drop the vehicle off at the closest branch or at a local car dealer. You will still be responsible for any balance remaining on the loan after the vehicle is sold.
Sell the Vehicle
If giving the vehicle back is not an option, you may be able to sell your vehicle if your financial situation changes and you are unable to continue paying for it. Determine the private party value of your vehicle by using Kelley Blue Book or NADA guides. Contact your bank next and let them know that you will be attempting to sell your vehicle. The bank may allow you to sign an unsecured note for the difference between the sale amount and loan balance, and release the title for sale.
Concessions from the Lender
If you want to keep the vehicle, your bank may be able to make some concessions that may allow you to do so. The bank may give you a deferral on your payments and add any missed payments on to the end of the loan term. You may be able to defer the loan for one to three months. The bank may allow you to refinance your car loan and lower your payments over a longer-term loan. You may even be able to refinance at a lower interest rate depending on your credit situation.
If you are unable to make concessions with the bank, and you don't give the vehicle back in a voluntary repossession, the bank will repossess your vehicle. A repossession agent will watch for you to leave the vehicle unattended, possibly even for just a moment. When he sees an opportunity, he will tow your vehicle away. In time, the bank will sell the vehicle at auction and probably sue you for the amount of the loan that the sale does not cover.
- Edmunds; What To Do if You Can't Make Your Car Payment; April 2009
- Federal Trade Commission: Vehicle Repossession: Understanding the Rules of the Road
- Bankrate; Voluntary Repossession; Don Taylor; October 2002
- Federal Trade Commission. "Vehicle Repossession." Accessed Sept. 30, 2020.
- Experian. "How Long Does It Take for a Repossession to Come off Your Credit?" Accessed Sept. 30, 2020.
- Nolo. "Deficiency Judgment." Accessed Sept. 30, 2020.
- Experian. "What is a Buy Here, Pay Here Dealership." Accessed Sept. 30, 2020.
- Georgia Department of Banking and Finance. "Repossession (Vehicles)." Accessed Dec. 20, 2019.
Craig Woodman began writing professionally in 2007. Woodman's articles have been published in "Professional Distributor" magazine and in various online publications. He has written extensively on automotive issues, business, personal finance and recreational vehicles. Woodman is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in finance through online education.