My Car Was Repossessed. Where Do I Go From Here?

Unforeseen Circumstances

When your car gets repossessed, you may feel a range of different emotions. Whether it’s anger, embarrassment, helplessness, or guilt, you may wonder, “How did I let this happen?” It may have been a situation beyond your control. We’re often confronted with unexpected events, such as a job loss, divorce, illness, or death in the family, which may have a severe impact on meeting our financial obligations.

Repossessing a Vehicle

When a vehicle is financed through a bank or credit union, the lender has the right to repossess the car if the borrower has defaulted on the terms of the loan agreement. For example, if you don’t make timely payments or if insurance lapses, the lender can repossess the car. The lender is not required to notify the borrower in advance of the repossession.

Usually, the lender will arrange for a repossession agent to locate the car and seize it. The repossession truck could come to your home, place of employment, or even a shopping center or restaurant where the car is parked. When seizing a vehicle, the repo agent may not “breach the peace”, which means they can’t use physical force, threaten force, or remove your car from a secured area without your permission.

How can I get my car back?

The lender will send a written Notice of Repossession, to the consumer AFTER the vehicle has been taken. This letter, sometimes called a Notice of Intent to Sell Property, will indicate terms to retrieve the vehicle within a specific period of time. If the borrower is not able to meet those terms, the lender will arrange to sell the vehicle at an auction or private sale. Once the car is sold, the lender will send a second letter, called a Deficiency Notice, to the consumer. This letter will detail the selling price of the car, any repossession and storage fees, and the total balance owed to satisfy the loan.

Do I have rights even though I defaulted on my loan?

If your car, truck, motorcycle, boat, or RV has been repossessed, a qualified consumer protection attorney can evaluate whether your rights have been violated. It will be important for you to provide a copy of your signed Retail Installment Sales Contract or loan agreement, along with any repossession correspondence from the lender to the attorney.

My loan agreement is in my car? How can I get a copy?   

Consumers will often keep their loan agreement in their car, which presents a problem if the vehicle is repossessed. In that situation, there are three ways to obtain a copy of the loan agreement.

1. Contact the lender: Write, call, email, or visit a local branch.

For example: If you had a loan with Peoples Security Bank & Trust and lived near their Scranton, PA branch, you could contact the bank office directly to request a complete copy of your loan agreement. You may need to get the bank’s contact information from a car loan statement, phone book listing, or by searching online. You will find their address, branch phone number, and email address.

Once you reach a bank representative in the repossession department, request they provide you with a complete copy of your loan agreement..

2. Visit the repo lot and obtain all of your personal belongings.

3. Contact the car dealership where the vehicle was purchased. The dealership often keeps copies of all loan agreements. You could visit the dealership to obtain a copy, or the dealership may be able to send a copy by fax, email, or through the US Mail.

Remember, when requesting a copy of your loan agreement, be sure to obtain a complete copy, front and back, and make certain that the copy is legible.

Seek Legal Help

Whether you fell behind on payments or not, borrowers have legal rights when the lender or repo agent has wrongfully repossessed the vehicle.  Contact a qualified consumer protection law firm to discuss your rights and steps to take.