There’s no set amount of time that dictates when repossession can take place. Laws on repossession vary by state, so it’s difficult to say how long you’ll have after missing a payment, although payments just one day late can often put you on the fast track to losing your car.
Waiting for the Repo Man
Instead of waiting around for the repo man to come and collect your vehicle, the first thing you should do if you fear repossession is talk to your lender. They may be willing to help by moving the payment date, or adding an additional month to the term of your loan. It costs money to repossess a car, and most lenders would prefer to work with you than come and get your vehicle.
The timetable you have varies by state and applicable law. In Iowa, you’ll have at least 20 days until the repo man shows up, once the lender has provided you with a notice of your options to correct the situation. In Maine, you’re given 14 days. In Wisconsin, repossession requires legal action, so you have as long as it takes to complete that process in the courts.
But in most states, any time you miss a payment date and default on your loan, the lender is allowed to take possession of your vehicle, without notice, as long as there’s no “breach of peace.” Breach of peace is a very general term, however, so repo men have a lot of freedom when it comes to taking your car.
Generally, any unlawful or aggressive act performed in order to obtain your vehicle is considered breaching the peace. For instance, repossessors may not break into a locked garage or use a duplicate garage key to take the vehicle. They may, however, hotwire your car and take it from a driveway, public road, parking lot, carport or garage – one that’s open, or closed and unlocked. They can repossess your vehicle at home, at work, or anywhere in between.
If Repossession is Coming
If you fear your vehicle is about to be repossessed, don’t complicate things further by trying to evade the repo man. In fact, purposefully trying to hide your vehicle from repossession is considered a crime in some states. Rather than hoping the repo man won’t find your car, do what you can to make the process easier on yourself.
Clear your car of personal possessions (the company is supposed to return all personal property, but better safe than sorry) and prepare to take the next steps. According to legal website Nolo.com, there are typically four options for getting your vehicle back after a repo:
- Redeem your vehicle. If you’re already having trouble, paying off the entire loan balance plus repossession costs is typically out of the question, but is usually offered as an option called redemption.
- Reinstate your loan. The reinstatement option depends on the state you live in, and isn’t always available. This option allows you to pay back what you owe, plus repossession costs, and continue with your loan as normal. The catch is that you won’t be able to miss a payment again.
- Buy your car at auction. When a repossessed car is being sold at auction, as often happens, you have the right to bid and try to purchase your vehicle. However, if your successful, you’ll still be responsible for paying the difference between the price you paid at auction and the total amount you owe the lender.
- File for bankruptcy. Filing for bankruptcy before the sale of your vehicle after repossession stops the lender from taking further action without court approval. This can often buy you the time needed to be able to get your car back. However, bankruptcy is a serious matter, and shouldn’t be done lightly. Make sure this option is the right thing for you before you consider going this route.
Only Time Will Tell
Because there’s no hard and fast rule about how quickly a repo man will come for your vehicle after missing a loan payment, it’s best to stay in touch with your lender before it happens. If you’re unable to avoid repossession, getting a car loan in the future will be difficult. Not only will you typically need a subprime loan from a special finance dealer due to the hit your credit will take, you’ll generally have to wait at least one year before you apply for financing again.
If you find yourself in this situation and you need a vehicle, Auto Credit Express wants to help. We work with a vast network of special finance dealerships across the country that have the lending resources available to help people who’ve faced repossession, have poor credit, or no credit at all. Don’t wait any longer to find your next car loan. Simply fill out our online auto loan request form, and we’ll get to work matching you with a local dealer today!