Once you default on an auto loan, you run the risk of having your car repossessed. A repossession order is a legal document that grants the lender the right to repossess an asset, which can include a vehicle. Once the repo takes place, a repossession is listed on your credit reports for seven years and lowers your credit score. The act of repossessing your car and how long it takes depends on where you keep the vehicle and where you live.

How Long Before They Repo a Car?

How Long Does a Repossession Order Take?Depending on the state you live in, its repossession laws, and your lender, the repossession process can begin as soon as you’re one day late on a car payment. Most lenders go through a process to collect late fees before setting up a repossession, but because each lender is different, and this isn’t a requirement, you could lose your vehicle in a matter of days.

Just how long before the lender repos a car also depends on your relationship with them. If you’ve been consistent with on-time payments, and this is your first missed one, you could discuss a repayment plan with the lender in order to avoid repossession. On the flip side, if you’ve been delinquent in the past, the lender could speed up the repo process and take your vehicle sooner. Ideally, you should contact the lender before missing a payment.

What Happens if the Repo Man Can’t Find the Car?

You may have heard of the “advice” to hide your car from the repo man to avoid losing it. But purposely hiding your vehicle to avoid repossession is illegal. Eventually, the repo man is more than likely going to find the car and take it – and they can seize it anywhere the vehicle is out in the open, including your own property.

This means your car could be repossessed if you’re out and about shopping for groceries, if it’s parked outside your home at the curb, or even in the driveway. The reason why this can happen is because the repo man isn’t breaching the peace, which is another way of saying they’re not using force to take the vehicle. Breaching the peace is illegal, and if the repo man uses force – whether it’s physical, such as opening a locked garage, or verbal in the form of threats – to seize the car, you can take legal action against them.

If the vehicle isn’t found, your creditor can choose to take legal action and request a replevin. Replevin is an action taken if the car can't be repossessed without a breach of peace. Once the creditor files an order of replevin with the court, you must return the vehicle. If you don't, the court can enter a judgment against you, and collect the balanced owed plus court and repossession costs. If you don’t pay up, you can face further legal action.

Prevent a Repo Before it Happens

The bottom line is this: if you can, prevent the repossession from happening by communicating with your lender. Nobody wins in a repossession, and many lenders are more than willing to help prevent a repo from happening. Unfortunately, repossessions happen, and not everyone is fortunate enough to prevent it. If you lost a car due to repossession and it’s negatively affecting your credit score, but you need a vehicle, let Auto Credit Express help.

We work with a coast-to-coast network of special finance dealers that are experts at helping people in unique credit situations get financed. Get started today by filling out our free and secure auto loan request form, and we’ll get right to work connecting you to a dealership.