How Many Car Payments Can You Miss Before Repo?

Missing a single payment could put you at risk for repossession—but you’ll usually have between 60-90 days.
Written by Jacoba Bood
Edited by Bellina Gaskey
Reviewed by Georgina Grant
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In most cases, lenders won’t repossess your car until you’ve missed payments for 60–90 days—but that’s not always the case.
  • In many cases, you can risk a repossession after missing even one car payment.
  • Missed car payments will negatively affect your credit score and can result in the finance company taking possession of your car. 
  • Even if you don’t face repossession, missing any car loan payment can have a serious financial impact.

You may be at risk for repossession after one missed payment

Lenders usually won’t repossess your car until no payments have been made for 60–90 days. But it depends on how repossession works per your state law.
  • Most areas allow lenders to begin the repossession process as soon as the car is in default—or as soon as you’ve missed one payment
  • If the loan is in default, the lender can repossess your car at any time without notice—and can come to your property to do so
  • Even if your car isn’t repossessed, missed payments are costly and usually stay on your credit record for about seven years

Your lender has to notify you before repoing the car

If your lender moves to repossess your car, they must provide you with certain notices, starting with a notice of intent to sell the property.
You’ll have a chance to make the required payment(s) and get your repossessed car back before it’s auctioned off or privately sold.
If your car is sold, you’ll receive notice of the amount it sold for and whether you still owe a remaining balance (called the deficiency). If you cannot pay this balance, lenders may send it to a collections agency.
Ignoring this issue won’t make it go away. You may receive a summons to appear in court, and failing to appear can cause a judgment to be entered against you.
In the worst case, the financing company can freeze your assets and seize your personal property in an attempt to recoup their losses.
Key Takeaway Even after a car repossession, you could still owe your lender a remaining balance. If you’re unable to pay it, you could end up in court.

Take action immediately if you miss a car payment

If you do miss a car payment, it’s important to take action immediately. You’ll need to get everything in order and communicate with your lender to avoid repercussions for late payments.

1. Figure out how much you owe (and whether you can pay it)

Immediately check your loan balance, if there is a grace period for missed payments, and whether you owe a late fee or missed payment fee. 
Sometimes an NSF fee can also apply if you’re on automatic withdrawals and the payment bounced on the due date.
Look at your budget to see if there are areas you can cut back in so that you can put more money towards your car payments. 
Pro Tip Generally speaking, you should try to keep car-related expenses to no more than 20% of your after-tax income.

2. Determine your options

  • If you can afford to make the payment: Call your lender and have them re-process the payment as soon as possible. If you don’t have automatic payments, set them up so you don’t miss another in the future. 
  • If you can’t afford the payment and it’s a one-time issue,You might be able to defer the loan payment or set up a payment plan with your lender. Deferment pushes the due date to the end of the loan term, and you’ll typically only be required to pay the interest for that month instead of the entire loan payment.
  • If you can’t afford the payment on an ongoing basis: Your car loan is likely unaffordable for you. Defer the missed payment and then look at your options.
    Trading a car with a loan
    is possible—or you can try to refinance your car to get a lower monthly payment or interest rate.

3. Call your lender

Let your lender know what happened and ask about potential solutions. Remember to be polite—after all, you’re the borrower and asking for their help!
Lenders may be more willing to help you if you show that you’re committed to doing something about the situation. If you appear to be in a downward spiral, though, you may actually raise their concern.
If there’s a specific reason for your late car payments, like losing your job, they may ask for proof. Be prepared to provide evidence of your financial hardship in this case.
Be on alert: You may be asked to sign a loan deferment to delay your payments. Take your time to read all the fine print and make sure you understand the document before you sign.

Get help with personal finances and car ownership

Whether you just missed your first payment or have many payments past due, you may need to change some things budget-wise—or change the terms of your auto loan.
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