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Repossession Laws: What Is Required to Repossess

Repossession Laws

(See voluntary repossession)
Unfortunately, lenders usually have the right to repossess your vehicle after any late payment (including the very first one). It’s a good idea to always read the fine print in your credit contract because it outlines the lender’s right to repossess your car and what you can be charged for the repossession. The loan contract must disclose the lender’s repossession policy including when they can repossess and what your rights are if repossession occurs.

Although the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) generally does not apply to creditors (your auto lender), many states have specific repossession laws (usually referenced in the credit contract) and/or state fair debt collection laws that do cover repossessions. Consumers victimized by unfair or illegal repossession or debt collection tactics may be entitled to offsets against the deficiency balance and/or cash damages. If you are suffering the fall out from  a repo, see if you qualify for FREE* legal representation by:

The auto repossession process usually goes like this . . .

  1. You receive a late payment warning by mail; (but not always as there is no law that requires this. Only if the credit contract says so, is the lender required to notify you in writing)
  2. You receive a follow up call to the above warning;
  3. You pass some predetermined grace period (look in your credit disclosure statement for the appropriate number of days)
  4. You may receive one more warning (usually by mail)
  5. You discover your car missing from your home, work, or even at the mall. (Repo experts usually cruise by your home and work and even look for your daily habits to determine when and where would be the best place to repossess your car )
  6. You receive a notice that your car has been repossessed and what your rights are including how to get it back.
  7. If you can figure out a way to pay, you’ll have to pay the repossession fees, towing charges, impound charges, storage fees and various other fees incurred by the company that repossessed the car. This can easily run several hundred dollars.
  8. If you cannot pay the repo fees, you’ll lose the car completely! It’s sold at auction and the proceeds are applied to the balance of your auto loan and the fees mentioned above. If the balance is not paid off you’ll be informed of the balance and that you are still responsible for paying it off.  If there is money left over after the car loan balance and all repossession fees are paid, don’t expect to get any of the profit; the company can legally keep it.
  9. Your credit report is updated to reflect the account as a “repossession”

Keep in mind that repo experts cannot violate any laws during a repossession procedure. In other words they cannot enter a closed garage to repossess your vehicle. They can take a car sitting in your driveway.

Voluntarily Repossession

When you purchase any vehicle on credit, the lender retains important rights in the vehicle until you make the final payment. These rights are established by the contract you signed and by state law. Failure to make the first, second or even last payment on time carries serious consequences because your creditor has the right to “repossess” – take back – your car without going to court, or without warning you in advance. However, many states place limits on how the creditor may repossess the vehicle and they usually spell out how the lender must try sell the vehicle in order to reduce or eliminate your debt.

First and foremost; talk with your lender immediately if you are going to be late or miss a payment! Once the vehicle is repossessed, it’s extremely difficult to get back and expensive. Generally you’ll have to pay all overdue payments and any penalties plus the cost of the repossession and any storage charges incurred as a result of the repo. Many creditors agree to delayed payments IF they believe you will pay at a later date.

Voluntary Repossession
Giving the vehicle back to your lender voluntarily may reduce your creditor’s expenses in repossessing the automobile and it may reduce the amount you will owe the creditor. BUT, you will still be responsible for paying any deficiency on your loan, and the creditor may still report the repossession on your credit report.

Debt Settlement
Debt settlement is a good option for dealing with a repossession. It can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars off the deficiency balance. Plus, it is often faster than bankruptcy and doesn’t linger on your credit report as long. Contact an experienced debt settlement attorney if you qualify and get a free, no obligation review.

When is my car payment in default?
Typically, missing a payment due date by even one day makes the account delinquent. However, always consult your credit contract for the exact details. Some creditors do allow grace periods but these are usually not true grace periods. However, if your creditor did agree to accept a late payment or to change your payment date, then the terms of your original contract may no longer apply. That’s why it’s important to get it in writing whenever you reach an agreement to modify your original contract.

Repossessing or Seizing the Vehicle
Generally, your creditor has legal authority to seize your car as soon as you default on your loan. Once you are in default, your creditor may repossess your car at any hour of the day or night, without prior notice. The creditor may also come onto your property to do so. However, the creditor may not commit a “breach of the peace” by using physical force or threats of force or breaking into locked buildings. If a “breach of the peace” occurs, your creditor may be required to pay a penalty or compensate you for any harm done to you or your property.

Reselling the Vehicle
After repossessing your car, the creditor can keep the car as compensation for your debt or resell it in a public or private sale. In either case, you must be told what will happen to the car. If the creditor decides to keep the car, in most states you have the right to demand they sell the car instead. If the car is worth more than the amount owed on the loan, you’ll want to exercise this right.

If the car is sold at a public auction, you must be notified of the date in advance. If sold at a private sale, you will be notified of a date after which it will be sold. Any resale must be conducted in a “commercially reasonable manner.” For example, a resale price which is below fair market value may be unreasonable. If this occurs, you may have a claim against the creditor for damages, or a defense against a deficiency judgment. Lastly, you may also be entitled to buy back the vehicle by paying the full amount owed, plus any expenses incurred by the creditor. In addition, you may be able to reinstate your loan by paying the amount you are behind on the loan plus your creditor’s expenses.

What happens to personal property left in my car?
Personal property does not apply to improvements made to the car, such as a CD Player, stereo or luggage rack. It only applies to items not connected to the vehicle. The creditor or whoever repossessed the car CANNOT keep or sell any personal property found inside. If the creditor or whoever repossessed the car cannot account for personal property left in the vehicle, you may be entitled to compensation and should consult with an attorney. Click here to present your case to a Fair Debt Lawyer, it’s Free & Confidential.

What is a Deficiency Judgment?
It’s the difference between what you owe on your loan and what your creditor receives from selling the vehicle. Creditors who follow the proper procedures for repossession and sale are generally allowed to sue you for a deficiency judgment to collect the loan balance. However, if a “breach of the peace,” was committed, the creditor may lose the right to collect a deficiency judgment. If you are sued, DO NOT miss the court hearing date because it may be your only opportunity to defend your position and to get the amount owed reduced or eliminated.

confidential informationThere may be instances where discussing your situation over a public forum could potentially compromise your interests. On these occasions we will contact you directly via email in order to answer your inquiry in a confidential manner.


  1. Creditor reported my vehicle on my credit report as a repossession. However. I am still in possession of the vehicle

  2. Car was repossessed… Paid loan up to date…. Car release was sent…. How long can they keep your car… Trying to pick ours up but the tow company is giving us the run around!!

  3. I believe I may need additional help due to I am having to pay 14,000 girl a car they sold for 900 and I was never advised of when the car was being sold or fir how much please help 5055502665

  4. Hello…my car was repossesses as default due to the fact of a refferal program with Drive Time which apples $200 credit to you account for each referral….I gave the company two referrals and wait 3 months for them to acknowledge (granted the verbage states credits would be applied on your “next payment ” I continued to pay call in and go into the facility to inquire about referrals….my two referrals even made contact …so after three months I was finally told my referrals have been done …I made a payment of $88 as my note was $219 biweekly and $400 in credits for referrals ….or so I thought untill car was repossesses… I have never missed a payment and would have paid if I known the credits wasn’t applied per their corporate office..I am a good customer …I gave them business and no one is willing to do right by their promises… I have a GPS system in the car that ” per the dealership” would alert me with a beep or put a kill switch on the car..no letters email in thing to let me know there was a problem…this cannot be fair that I have gone above with this company n they lied and took my money ..Please is there any thing I can do !

  5. My daughter car was repoed for 336 not paid I called them for pay off since jan no call back it’s also on receipts that I wanted to no pay off the still not have contacted me repoed daughter car yesterday in wouldn’t key her have her purse or personal belongings in the car now saying that I iwe a lot more 350 for repo cost and late fees like I ssid I have been calling them since jan they keep saying they the will get back to me in havent

  6. My car was repossessed. I did not receive notice prior to the repossession and had been working with my credit union to get caught up. Luckily, the man who repossessed my vehicle allowed me to get my belongings out of it. While getting my belongings out of my car, I attempted to contact the man I had been working with. I was unable to get ahold of him and found out that at the time he was on the phone with the man repossessing my vehicle. I received a notice two days later telling me that I had 10 days to pay my loan in full or it would be sold. That was the last I heard regarding the repossession until today. The man who repossessed my vehicle contacted me and informed me that I had the right to any amount over my loan that the vehicle was sold for (minus repossession fees). He then stated that he had been in contact with the credit union and was told that they would not be giving me any money and they had never refunded any money in repossession cases. He continued to state that he believes I should obtain an attorney and would be happy to provide all information regarding his interaction and files with my case and the credit union. He also provided me the name of the action company that sold my vehicle. I contacted them and was told that the vehicle was in fact sold but I would need to contact the credit union for the amount it sold for. I have not received any information regarding the auction and was not given the opportunity to buy it back. Should I contact an attorney based on the laws that were not followed?

  7. From the research I have done the last couple days I would say yes. I started by googling “car repossession in the state of _____” look for the government websites, although others, like this one, have also proved helpful. Check your state Attorney General site, too. Good luck!

  8. My husband and I defaulted on our truck title loan. We spoke with a representative from the title loan company who informed us to send $300.00 by money order via priority mail with a tracking number. We also had to call them and give them the tracking number. The payment of $300 was what would bring our loan up to date. Our payments are $150 per month. The payment was mailed priority on October 10, 2015. The payment was received on October 13, 2015. That is according to the tracking number information. Tonight, October 15, 2015, the truck was repossessed. According to the repossession slip, the order for repossession was issued on October 5, 2015. The title loan company never cancelled the order after receiving the payment. Are we responsible for paying for the repossession? (Fees, towing, storage). I feel that this is not fair.

  9. My boyfriend purchased me a car and we were 2 weeks behind on a payment. When I woke up on Saturday morning the car was gone. I had to wait the weekend in order to find out what I could do to get my car back. I tried calling the dealership to see what I can do to get my car back but they would not tell me any information since the car was in my boyfriends name. My boyfriend is a truck driver and delivers all around the United States. At this time he was in Idaho and was unable to pick the car up. SO he called the dealership and asked them if I could pick the car up and they said no that he had to do it. But he kept telling them that he would not be back in town for another 2 weeks but they still kept insisting that he has to be the one. So finally the person we were dealing with said that she would talk to her supervisor and get back to us the following day. What I am asking is does the dealership have the right to refuse to release the car to a person who is not on the loan? Even if the person who the car is registered to gave them permission?

  10. i was sued for amount owed on a car loan. they won the judgement. I still have my vehicle it was never repoed. Now that they have a judgement for a dollar amount can they still also repo my car? if i begin making payments on the judgement amount can it still be repoed?

  11. My vehicle was repossessed after being only 7 days late on my payment. I made contact with the representative explained my situation to choose to pay for my hotel for me and my 3 kids for the week or love in my car and pay the car note, I chose the hotel gave them the location still at the same job. This company has been very rude and disrespectful they don’t listen talk over you demand payment called my job as if I hadn’t just spoke with them and if you talk to them like they talk to you they’ll just hang up. I was not aware that this thugged out finance company was so cruel because I couldn’t provide her with documentation or allow them totalk to me any kind of way she asays I wasn’t following her rules and took my car I told her I was paying that night I work 8-9pm she never said what time so I assumed I can go online and pay before midnight well by 7 they stopped taking payments from me when I got off when in the hotel came back out 20 minutes layer my vehicle was gone. These people are thuggs I can’t believe the BBB attorney general allow these collection practices and I’ve been in collection for years dealing with taxes please have an attorney call me 317-919-2607

  12. My car was repo’d after only 10 days past due. First time being repo’d and they demanded the full balance due on the car. I thought I had one chance to pay the past due and repo fees to get it back before they demand the full amount. Is that true?

  13. my vehicle was repossessed at a mall which mall security told me that they do not allow repossessions on premises what can I do to get the towing company to actually take off the charges. I had already spoke with my lender paid the past due and now it’s time to get my vehicle back from the towing company what should I do?

  14. I had a repo person sow up at my mothers house.. This was a pervious address from 4 years ago. I contacted my bank. I was told to pay $1100 this included pay off and repo fees. 2 months later a man showed up and said he had a repo order for my car. Can my lender order another repo if they accepted my payment. I called and they refuse to give me any information on how my payments have been posted throughout this process. If they accepted my payment and cancelled the repo how can they start another repo? I thought this was illegal.

  15. I purchased a vehicle from a dealership in April 2015. My 1st payment was due in June 2015. I lost my job in may 18th 2015 and on may 20th 2015 the lender came and took my car. They took my car before the 1st payment was even due. Someone explain to me how this is possible.
    480 862 2427

  16. I have a 2002 Audi s8 it is financed car loan company I owe $3,719 on it the car engine blew up on me the other day it is going to cost more than I owe on the car to get repaired what should I do can I do a voluntary repo with this?

  17. So I got home this morning and went to bed but when I got up I noticed my car was not where I left it. There was no paper work or anything saying what happened to it and there are skid marks in the driveway what can I do? I do owe money on it tho.

  18. My car was repo 2 days after I paid 1475 that’s was owe to them to get my car back I need to pay them 631 bucks this is not right

  19. I had my car repossessed there was damage done to the under carriage. No notification. There were pieces of the car in driveway. Would like to know who is liable the lender or repo company. I called both cashstore said i had 15 days or the car would be sold.Both said they weren,t liable. Thank you.

  20. my nephew had paid off all but $1000 on his car. he went to jail for an old ticket . His car was repossessed and all belongings in car were not returned. the dealer also sold car without notification.

  21. My car was repossessed yesterday – I called the lender today to figure out how much will I need to May to get my car back. They informed me that I’ll have to pay the entire loan amount which is 30K knowing that late payments plus fees are about $2500. I even offered to pay in in 2 days once I cash my 401K for that and they told me that they will not allow me to only pay the late past due balance but entire amount of loan. Can they do that ?

  22. My truck was reposted while I was on the phone with financial company. I never got a notice of the 10 days to redeem or where it was at to get my items out. What can I do. I found out they sold it at a auction and I owed me 13 k by looking at my credit report. 2 months later I got in the mail the amount I owe them. During the 10 day period I called and asked where the truck was so I could get my stuff..no one could tell me.

  23. If a motorcycle was up for repossession back in 2003 and to date they have never picked it up and the finance company has since folded and the owner passed away can I still sell the bike?

  24. Can a bank reposess your vehicle if you defaulted on a credit card with them?? Our truck payment is current but the loan is with the same bank.

  25. My daughter has been late in her car payments but they Never repo her car and I was review her statement and notice they are charging her $275.00 for repo in February and now in March is that legal?

  26. we had a car reposted in 2008. we did not try to get it back because it was broke down all the time. they received judgement. we have paid 50.00 every month up until my husband got sick and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. they put a lion in my property. then they garnished my bank accounts recently and got roughly 5000.00 dollars which was from a cancer policy my husband had. according to them I have paid 9300.00 and they sold the vehicle for 3500.00 and I still owe 27000.00 and they are charging me 18% interest . is that legal. I’ll never get it paid it off.

  27. My motorcycle was repossessed at the tow yard for not having a valid license. Not one missed payment. Please help any help is better then no help.

  28. Can the bank make you pay for the tow companies time and travel when they did NOT repossess the car?

  29. If u received a letter that the car was being auctioned with time and place and then another letter with how much car was sold for but I saw the car in their website, is that legal?

  30. If my car was repossessed can the lender make me pay a payment that’s not even due for three weeks yet. The amount I need to get the car back includes a payment that wasn’t even due for 3 weeks

  31. I’m going to go repossess my own car tomorrow from the impound because they impounded it. Driving on suspended license so I called my dealer and told them the situation and they told me to go and pick up the repossession papers cuss basically my cares going to get repoed but I’m the one doing it 🙂 lol dumb tow people try to take my car.

  32. Bought my car in late Nov last year through an Used Car Company. Around the time I bought that car I had just paid off my previous car through them. I only received one billing statement after that I contacted the company when I did not receive another billing statement. At which point I was told that my vehicle was not in their system even after talking to an associate, co-manager and manager. I contacted them every two-four weeks to try and make a payment only to be told again and again that: “my car was not in the system, that they would look into it and call me back with the info” so I could actually make a payment. Fast Forward to Mid-June this year with still zero luck, I called the company and the woman on the other end said she would call me back but never did(by time I got off work the office was closed. A week later, while at work (work for inhome assistance) there was a knock on the door of my client’s door and a man asked me if I was the owner of the vehicle in question. When I replied Yes he said he was here to take my car. Stuck at work then I contacted the company to find out that my vehicle had been repossessed due to non-payment. Was told that I would need to pay half of what was owed($2,886) as well as the towing, impound, storage and any damage costs within 15 days to get my car back.
    I do not know what to do now. There is no way I can afford to pay all of what they are asking me. Is there any legal actions I can take?

  33. if I had an agreement to pay a late car payment on a certain date…is the finance company allowed to reposess the car BEFORE the close of business on the agreed date to make the payment?

    I had this happen to me- I had a verbal agreement via the phone with a person in the collections department and they repo’d the car the same day the payment was made- coincidentally I was making the payment as the car was getting towed….around 1pm if I recall correctly.

    I haven’t had the car since Sept of 2015 and it still shows on my credit even though they have obviously already sold the car. After reporting them to the BBB (completely useless) I have YET to receive any documentation regarding the resale of the vehicle and if I am on the hook for a balance. I have filed a dispute with Equifax and I am wondering…was the repossession done illegally to begin with?

  34. I am looking for a sample 10 day reinstatement letter for a vehicle that i sold to a girl that has not paid and has blown the motor in the car. I have to send this before I can take her to court. let me know if anyone has something. Thanks

  35. Shella Fleurisma

    I received my certified repossession letter from financed company a month and a half after I paid and retrieved my car.. I always thought it was unfair, because I never received any letters prior to the repossession of my car.. Please help me figure out this injustice .

  36. My car engine blow warranty won’t cover it. And I have no money to buy a new engine. I probably will going to call them and let them repossessed it. What will happen and how’s the process going to work?

  37. My car was just repossessed yesterday.. the payments ARE CURRENT! The bank did not contact me in writing or phone call to even let me know what the problem is. We have complete coverage on the vehicle and all drivers are legally licensed. What do I do now and can I sue them?

  38. I had a situation in which I went several months without paying secondary losing my job and relocating to reemploy myself. I payed all past due payments to bring my account current once I got back on my feet, however the finance company passed on charges to me for their skip tracing and legal fees even though my vehicle was never repossessed.

    I have kept my account current since then, but the supervisor of the finance company becomes irate when I inquire about these charges.

    I have another vehicle financed through a different finance company. I have been paying extra on this account (almost double my regular payment) and just noticed that this finance company has credited my extra payment towards “interest” instead of principal. When I inquired, they simply state that is procedure.

    Can you please advise me on these two scenarios? Thanks in advance.

  39. I was told that if a repo’d car sold for less than $1000, the lender would have to write the rest of the balance off. Thus relieving the purchaser of any further financial liability. Is this true? I have been garnished for 3 years now, and just found out that my car was sold for $310.

    If the above statement is true and I was not liable for the deficiency balance, can I recoup what I’ve already paid?

  40. In Virginia can they make me sell my paid off house because of a 9000 dollar car being repossed?

  41. Hello, I bought a car from a used car dealer. My car was repossessed yesterday. How long does the car dealer has to resale my car? Can they just put it back in the market as if it was not repossessed? I am in Arizona.

  42. My car was repossessed and the bank stated I had to payoff loan in full plus late fees and repo fees to get my car back. My mother gave me the money to pay off loan plus $350 repo fee. Then the repo guy charged my $695 to get my car back. The bank said I only had to pay the repo guy $35 per day for storage fees. The repo guy said I had to pay $350 repo fee, which the bank charged me and $35 per day for storage, nothing added up. Can repo charge these fees? Do they have to give me an itemized receipt??

  43. My daughter car was report and she was sued for the balance of the car after resale. Now they are sueing her for the interest after the fact. She received no letters her job told her
    Can this be legal?

  44. Got my truck repoed yesterday but I been trying to get the payment back on track and now there telling me I’m 564 past due and returned fees and everything. They failed to tell me what’s going on that now there giving me the run around. And there saying at anytime the can auction the truck and I been trying to see if I can get the truck back wells fargo dealer service r the worse loan ppl to deal with

  45. I did a voluntary repossession on my vehicle last year and I ended up owing them money for the difference. it was showing as charge off on my credit report and not repossession. Also, every month they will report me to the credit bureau as delinquent account. Is that even legal? Is it supposedly be “repossession” ? Please advise what should I do to correct this if this is an error.

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