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What to know if your car could be repossessed by the lender

August 26, 2012|By Scott J. Wilson, Los Angeles Times
  • Banks are getting more aggressive about repossessing the car on the first default, an attorney says.
Banks are getting more aggressive about repossessing the car on the first… (John Moore, Getty Images )

If you fall behind on the loan payments for your car, the lender may send a repossession company to get the vehicle back. Some things to know:

•Don't expect a break. If your loan contract does not stipulate a grace period, the car can be repossessed without warning after you miss a payment. "What we are finding recently is that banks are much more aggressive about picking up the car on the first default," said Nancy Barron, a San Francisco consumer-rights attorney.

•Even if you're current on your payments, a car can be repossessed for failing to meet other terms of your loan contract, such as not buying insurance for the vehicle.

•Repossession agents must be registered with the state's Bureau of Security and Investigative Services. If you're there when the repo guy/gal shows up, ask to see his/her BSIS identification card, and write down the license or registration number. You can verify the license at or by calling (800) 952-5210.

•Repossession agents can go onto private property to get a vehicle, but it's illegal for them to enter a private building, such as a garage or a locked area, without the property owner's permission. That doesn't mean you should try to hide the car — it's illegal to "remove, conceal or dispose of" a vehicle if your intent is to keep it from the legal owner, according to the California Department of Consumer Affairs.

•If you think there's any chance that your vehicle could be repossessed, remove all your personal belongings from it. The repossession agency can charge you a hefty storage fee to get those items back, the California Department of Consumer Affairs says.

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