How to get Vehicle Back after Repossession
There are a few ways to get your vehicle back after a repossession:
1. Lender agrees to voluntarily return the car
If your car was illegally repossessed, many lenders will voluntarily return the car.
2. Paying the "reinstatement" amount of the loan
Contact the lender to find out how much money you need to pay to "reinstate" the vehicle loan. Depending on how far behind you were at the time of repossession, this could be a large sum of money. Generally the amount will be all of the past-due payments, plus the prepayment of the upcoming payments. And you'll also have to pay the costs associated with the repossession.
3. Filing for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
If you file for bankruptcy relief under "Chapter 13," you will be able to get your car back immediately. Filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a complicated process and we suggest legal assistance before filing.
4. Suing the Lender/Repo Company
If your rights were violated, suing a lender to get your car back is a recommended approach. Our office regularly sues lenders and repossession companies for the return of vehicles.
How to Stop your Vehicle from Being Repossessed
If your car is about to be repossessed, or is in the process of repossession, here are some options:
If your car is being repossessed, you can verbally object to the repossession. Under Wisconsin law, the repossession agent must stop. You can read more about this area of law, here.
If you received a letter indicating your car may be repossessed, look for language related to your right to demand a court date. You have to exercise this right within 15 day of receiving the letter. Follow the instructions on the letter related to where you much mail the demand. If you have facts that you want to explain to a judge to keep your car, make sure you demand a court date. Otherwise your car will be repossessed without further warning.
3. File for Bankruptcy
If you file for bankruptcy relief under "Chapter 13," it will stop your lender from proceeding with their repossession efforts. Filing a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is a complicated process and we suggest legal assistance before filing.
4. Refinance your Loan
Depending on the amount of your loan (and other financial circumstances) you could look at refinancing the loan with a different lender. If you bank with a local institution (like a credit union) we recommend starting there.
5. Negotiate Payment Arrangements
Most lenders are more interested in your money than they are in your vehicle. So stay in communication with them and discuss what payment options are available. Create a workable and sustainable arrangement; don't over-promise or put yourself into a worse situation.
How Many Months Behind until Vehicle Repossession
This all depends on your lender. Some lenders wait until you are 2-3 months behind. Others repossess vehicles as soon as they legally can. Under the Wisconsin Consumer Act, you have to be more than 40 days behind one full payment before the lender even begin the repossession process. If you have already received your "right to cure letter," then your vehicle is a risk for repossession.
How to Find your Repossessed Vehicle
You wake up one morning and your vehicle is gone. You don't know if it's been stolen or repossessed. First thing is to call your local police and ask them if your car was "called in" as repossessed. Repossession agents are required to alert the police if they have repossessed a vehicle. If your vehicle wasn't "called in," then you should report it as stolen.
If your car was repossessed, call your lender to find out what repossession company has the vehicle. You have the right to reclaim your personal property from the vehicle. The repossession company will likely require you to schedule an appointment. If the repossession company attempts to charge you a "personal property fee" to get your belongings back, you should contact us right away. These fees could be illegal and you could be entitled to sue them.
Rules for Repossessing a Vehicle
There are strict rules for repossessing vehicle. First, you are entitled to certain pre-repossession notices. Second, the repossession agent must "stop" if you object to the repossession. Lenders and repossession agents must follow these rules, otherwise you may be entitled to a "free car" for their violations of the law.
Car Repossession Process
Generally, you receive a written notice you are behind. Sometimes you are sued to get the vehicle back. Next a repossession agent will attempt to repossess the vehicle (usually in the middle of the night). After the repossession, the lender will notify of your rights to reclaim the vehicle. After that the vehicle will be sold at auction.
What Happens after My Vehicle is Repossessed
First, you will get a letter indicating your vehicle has been repossessed. It will lay out certain deadlines (generally 15 days) for you to "reinstate" or redeem your vehicle - paying the lender money to get it back. Next, the lender will ship your vehicle to a wholesale auction where it will be sold. After that point in time, the lender will contact you related to the "deficiency" - the dollar amount you owe after the sale (and yes, they will pass along the fees charged by the auction company). Some lender turn over these dollar amounts to collection agencies, called "debt collectors." You may have additional rights if the debt has been sold to a debt collector.
A voluntary repossession is the process by which you agree to return the vehicle to your finance company. But voluntarily turning over the vehicle doesn't mean you are not responsible for the "deficiency" - the balance left over after they sell the vehicle. Many people think agreeing to a voluntary surrender will end their obligation to pay on the debt. This is rarely (as in never) the case. Get legal advice and have a strategy before doing a voluntary surrender. This is rarely the wisest or best choice.