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Auto Repossession: Am I Finally off the Hook Now?

Car on the back of a tow truck

It is an exciting day indeed, buying a new car (or that ‘new’ used car), and rolling off the lot with it, driving home ever so carefully–with auto repossession certainly the last thing on your mind. You probably could not wait to drive it to work the next day, take it out for a luxurious spin on the weekend, and even looked forward to hitting the car wash and watching it sparkle. In the US, the car can be a source of pride and pleasure. But that can turn to pain quickly when money gets tight. At that point, the car may have begun to feel like a noose around your neck, growing tighter when you put the key in the ignition.

The idea of having your car repossessed may have once seemed horrific, an embarrassment, but upon waking one morning to find your car gone—spirited off by someone hired by the lender—you may feel a strange sense of relief. You may also have a whole new list of questions about your auto account. First, what about all your stuff that was inside? The lender does have the right to take back your car, but not to plunder through or keep your personal belongings. If you are not able to ask the repo agent to kindly let you get your things before they load up the vehicle, the lender should give you a certain amount of time to come and retrieve loose items in the car; otherwise, you may have a claim against the lender. In California, you should receive a notice regarding the timeframe to retrieve your things, along with an inventory.

The next big question is whether you can really enjoy breathing a sigh of relief and bidding good riddance to the vehicle that was sucking the life out of you—and your savings. That depends. In some cases, the car may be back in the hands of the lender, or already sold at auction, but they still expect you to pay off the difference between what they sold it for, and what was owed. If they could sell the vehicle and satisfy the loan amount, then you are indeed one of the rare lucky ones who can walk away.

If the sale did not cover the amount left on the car, there is a very good chance a judge could grant the lender a deficiency judgment against you, and even sign off on having your wages garnished. Because of such potential for serious ramifications, as soon as you sense you may be in trouble with your auto loan, consult with an experienced auto debt attorney.

Cars are generally a requirement for fulfilling the daily activities required in our lives—from getting to work to school, to picking up food and prescriptions and more. But if you find yourself ‘underwater’ in a loan or paying for a vehicle that was never reliable and is now not even running, it is time to seek legal help. And just because a car has been repossessed does not mean the lender has given up on getting your monthly payments. Many lenders are used to this routine and have deep pockets for hiring debt collectors, taking borrowers to court, and sinking their teeth in for the long run. Their hope is that without an attorney on your side, you are an easy target. This is especially common in the subprime market.

Car on the back of a tow truck

You may have the option of redeeming your car loan even after repossession, getting up to date on payments and paying the lender back for all the trouble of coming to take your car. Before taking any steps though, contact Fitzgerald & Campbell, APLC.  Our attorneys have decades of experience in serving clients as they navigate through challenging financial situations with auto loans and more.

Let us review your case and discuss what would work best for you. We are here to help! Call us today for a free consultation at (844) 431-3851, or email us at  

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