The Law Office of Paul Mankin

How Many Car Payments Can You Miss Before Repossession?

We frequently receive questions like this.  How many car payments can you miss before repossession? How many days late can you be on a car payment? How many car payments can I get behind before a repossession?  All these are variations of the same question. 

The repossession laws state that once you are in default a creditor is allowed to repossess your car or vehicle.   Generally speaking, the contract that you signed when purchasing your car or vehicle determines when you are in default.  While there are exceptions, most contracts state that a consumer is in default if their payment is one day past the due date. 

So, if your car payment is due on the 1st of the month, you are in default or late on the 2nd of that month. This ultimately means that if a payment is not made by the 1st of the month, the finance company can repossess your car or vehicle on the 2nd of the month. Even though this seems too soon or unfair, the repossession laws will support the finance company in this situation. Also, unless your contract states otherwise, the repossession company does not need to call you, send you a letter, or give you any notice that it will be repossessing your vehicle.

Although the finance company has the right to repossess your car or vehicle after one day of being late, repossessing a car this quickly would be unusual.  Oftentimes, finance companies wait a few weeks or a month after the payment due date before ordering a repossession.  Generally speaking, it is in the finance company’s best financial interest to have their customers continue to pay on the car loan versus repossessing the car. 

We have heard of situations where a car is repossessed after six months of non-payment.  But, this is not typical, and more often than not in these situations, the finance company did not wait six months before ordering the repossession.  The repossession was ordered after the first month of non-payment, but it took five months for the repossession agent to find the car.  Usually, the borrower moved to a different state and did not update their address with the finance company making it difficult for the repossession agency to locate the vehicle.

Of course there are exceptions to almost everything.  If your finance company told you that you could make your car payment on a different date, then the default date may have been changed.  Similarly, if you usually pay on a day that is after your payment due date, your default date might have been changed by your repeated performance of paying late.

A word of caution.  If your finance company tells you that you can make a payment past the normal payment due date, it is best to obtain this agreement in writing.  An email, text message, or a recorded phone call (recorded legally of course) are all ways to document this new agreement. Unfortunately, it is extremely common for a finance company to tell a borrower that he or she can make a late payment and then still repossess the car before the agreed upon date.  When the borrower calls the finance company to complain that it mistakenly repossessed or wrongfully repossessed the car, the finance company claims to have no record of the agreement to pay late.  It is very difficult to prove that the agreement was made in the first place without some evidence of the agreement.

On the other hand, finance companies mistakenly repossess or wrongfully repossess cars when the borrower is current.  The finance company makes an accounting error or doesn’t properly record a payment.  Its payment system then incorrectly states that the borrower is behind in payments when the borrower is current.  A repossession order goes out and the borrower’s car is wrongfully repossessed.  The repossession laws provide protection for consumers or borrowers when this occurs.  It is best to contact a repossession lawyer if this has happened to you. 

Unfortunately, there really isn’t a certain number of days or payments that can be missed before a repossession occurs.  Its always best to stay current on your car loan. And, if you make an agreement with your finance company to extend the payment due date, it is best to document that agreement in writing or a recording.

If you have had your car or vehicle repossessed when you were current on your car or vehicle payments, feel free to call a repossession lawyer from the Law Office of Paul Mankin, APC at 1-800-219-3577.  We will provide you with a free no obligation case evaluation.