Whether you miss a single or several payments on your car loan, the situation shouldn’t be taken lightly. You need to act fast and make smart, honest decisions based on your finances and personal circumstances. In many cases, failing to pay consecutive installments can result in the repossession of your vehicle — but there are several proactive steps you can take to avoid it.
Lift and Tow will help you understand the impact of voluntary repossession and how voluntary repossession works.
How a Repossession Affects Credit Scores
Vehicle repossessions can affect your credit score if you have any of the following:
- Late payments
- Court judgments
Each can show up on your report as a separate entry. Repossessions, collections and court judgments can remain on your credit report for up to seven years, reading as a derogatory mark and dropping your credit score by 100 points.
Repos can also affect your ability to get a vehicle loan in the future. If you get approved, a lender may charge higher interest rates because of the defaulting risk. On top of your credit score, repos affect your bank account. Even after your car is taken and sold, you often need to pay the difference, which is called a deficiency balance.
Your credit undergoes devastating, long-term effects when your car is repossessed. Both voluntary and involuntary car repossessions can even affect a cosigner’s credit because each person shares the responsibility. However, a cosigner benefits from the same rights as the primary borrower if a repossession occurs.
What Is Voluntary Repossession?
Also called a voluntary surrender, voluntary car repo happens when you can’t afford your car payments, and you return your vehicle to the lender on your own terms. Many believe this is the safe way out, but it isn’t always easier or less painful than going through an involuntary repo.
If you’ve exhausted all your options and can’t meet the lender’s loan agreement terms, here’s what you can do. Steps for a voluntary repossession include:
- Call the lender and explain the situation.
- Set up a time and location to return your car.
- Record the date, time and personnel’s information for future reference.
A voluntary repo is more immediate than involuntary. Involuntary is when a lender takes action to seize your vehicle when a loan is a default.
Should I Voluntarily Repossess My Vehicle?
There are many pros and cons of a voluntary repossession. But whether you choose to go ahead with the process or rely on involuntary, your credit score will still be affected.
Here are some of the benefits of voluntarily surrendering your car:
- Avoid stress and the emotional aspects of an involuntary repo
- Take your car in during a time that suits you
- More convenient and doesn’t have to happen in front of others
- Stop your car payments
However, volunteer repossession is still repossession and comes with significant drawbacks.
- Still need to pay the deficiency balance after a lender sells your car and applies the proceeds to your loan
- Still affects your credit score and shows up on the history
- Gets reported by your lender to credit bureaus
- Has the same amount of damage as an involuntary option
- Responsible for repo fees
- Account turns over to a collection agency if you can’t pay
- A lender can take you to court
Only rely on a voluntary repo as a last resort when you’re out of options and negotiations. It’s only a slightly better option than involuntary.
How to Avoid Repossession
Instead of giving up and turning in your car, you can handle missed payments the right way. One of the most critical steps is to have an honest conversation with your lender about why you missed the payments. If they’re willing to work with you, you can determine a solution that’s ideal for you both. It’s better to prevent a repo and pursue alternatives to help limit the damage to your credit score.
1. Know How Much You Owe
If you can cover the initial payment you missed, pay it off right away. But if you’re tight on finances, start by understanding your loan balance, term and interest rate. Is there a late fee?
Review your budget to see if you can pull money from other expenses or eliminate some altogether. Implementing the 50/30/20 budget is a good place to start if you don’t already have a budget in position. Step one is determining whether your missed payment is a one-time occurrence or if it will be an ongoing issue.
2. Recognize Your Options
It’s vital to be honest with yourself and your lender. Was the missed payment a one-off mistake, or is it a sign you can’t afford your loan? If you can meet the expense of your missed and current payments, you may have to pay a late fee right away. Sometimes, lenders may waive late charges if you have open communication. You can also inquire about automatic payments to help you avoid missed expenses.
In case you can’t afford a single car payment, loan deferment is common. It’s when the lender pushes a missed payment to the end of your loan term. You have to pay off the interest owed for that month.
When you can’t afford the loan at all, you need to seek deferment for the remainder of the month to stop the threat of damage to your credit score. It would help if you looked into long-term solutions, such as refinancing the loan, trading your car for a more affordable vehicle, picking up a part-time job or selling your car.
Consider selling your vehicle, especially if it’s worth more than your current loan balance. Next time, you can invest in a used car that’s an older make and model, so you don’t have to borrow money from the bank. You can also use other forms of transportation like buses, trains and taxis.
3. Call Your Lender
After you figure out what you owe and your options, call your lender. Ask about solutions like deferment and other suggestions they may have. Remember to be kind because you’re asking for a favor. Explain what you’re willing to do to make up for the missed payment.
Honesty is key because you will often have to prove your story. Lenders would rather spend the time helping you as opposed to spending money on repossessing your car. During the conversation, you may be able to negotiate an extension, enter into a deferment or receive a revised payment schedule.
Communication is critical when you’re seeking support from your lender. Don’t ignore their calls and letters. Instead, confirm your options and reach out to them for assistance. You can save your credit by avoiding repossession.
Learn About Lift and Tow
Sidestepping repossession can save you from incurring dings in your credit score. If you take the proper steps, you can avoid voluntary and involuntary repos. Lift and Tow is the creator of the hidden wheel lift that attaches to the underbody of your pickup. Our solutions convert your vehicle into a tow truck and can remain hidden when not in use. We engineered an economical alternative to investing in a tow truck to reduce manual labor and deliver efficient loading. We deliver value to your operations while giving you a competitive advantage in the industry.