Q&A: Car repo is a nonstarter

Dear Liz: I had to move to assisted living due to a stroke. I no longer need my car — or the car payment. Can I simply stop paying and let it be repossessed? There are about 18 months to go before it’s paid off. I don’t need great credit anymore and our current expenses exceed our income.

Answer: If you’re that close to paying off the loan, then you probably have a good chunk of equity. It would be a shame to lose any of that value to the costs of repossession.

Typically repossessed cars are sold at auction, often for less than their resale value. The proceeds, minus the expenses of repossessing and preparing the car, are applied to your loan. You’d only get what’s left over. (If what’s left over is less than what you owe, the amount is added to your debt.)

This bad financial outcome is on top of the damage done to your credit, which can be substantial. Even if you think it unlikely you’ll need credit again, you don’t know for sure that you won’t.

If you have the option of selling the car to a private party or dealer — or asking a trusted friend or relative to help you do so — that’s usually a much better way to go than letting the vehicle be repossessed.

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