The Florida Motor Vehicle Exemption in Bankruptcy

The Florida motor vehicle exemption allows you to protect $1,000 in car equity and $2,000 if you are married and filing jointly.

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The Florida motor vehicle exemption allows you to protect $1,000 in car equity, $2,000 if you are married and filing jointly. You may be able to cover additional equity with other exemptions. Read on to learn more about Florida's motor vehicle exemption and other exemptions you can use to protect equity in your car, van, truck, motorcycle, or other vehicle. how Florida exemptions  helps determine whether you can keep your car, truck, van, or other vehicle if you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Here you’ll find information about the Florida car exemption: how much it is, what types of vehicles it covers, how it works for married couples, how to find the applicable statute, and more.

(For more information about exemptions, including how they work and which ones you can use, see our Bankruptcy Exemptions area. For information specific to the motor vehicle exemption, see our Motor Vehicle Exemption in Bankruptcy area.)

The Motor Vehicle Exemption and Your Car

Florida’s motor vehicle exemption plays a large role in determining whether or not the bankruptcy trustee can take your vehicle to repay your unsecured creditors.  If the equity in your car is less than Florida’s car exemption, then the trustee cannot sell it. If the equity in your car is significantly more than the applicable exemption amount, the trustee is likely to sell your car to repay your unsecured creditors. For details, see The Motor Vehicle Exemption: Can You Keep Your Car in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy? 

Keep in mind that even if your car is safe from the bankruptcy trustee, the lender may be able to repossess your car during or after bankruptcy. To learn more, see Your Car in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and If You Are Behind on Your Car Payments, Can Chapter 7 Help?

The Amount of Florida’s Motor Vehicle Exemption

In Florida, you can exempt up to $1,000 in equity in your car or other vehicle.

Example. Ira owns a 2008 Pontiac Vibe valued at $6,000. He owes the dealer $5,000 on the loan, leaving $1,000 of equity in the car. Ira can protect all of the equity in his car using the Florida motor vehicle exemption.

The Federal Motor Vehicle Exemption

Some states allow bankruptcy filers to use the federal bankruptcy exemptions instead of state exemptions, but Florida is not one of these states.

Additional Florida Exemptions That May Protect Your Car

If the equity in your car is more than $1,000, you may be able to cover the extra equity by using the personal property exemption. Florida’s exemption statute and constitution allow you to protect up to $1,000 worth of any personal property, such as excess equity in your vehicle.

Additionally, if you do not use the homestead exemption to protect your residence, you can protect up to $4,000 of additional equity in your vehicle (Fl. Stat. Ann. 222.25).

Can Married Couples Double Florida’s Motor Vehicle Exemption?

Some states allow married couples filing a joint bankruptcy petition to double the listed exemption amounts. Florida allows married couples to double the motor vehicle exemption to protect up to $2,000 of equity in one motor vehicle.

(To learn about the advantages and disadvantages of joint bankruptcy filings, see Nolo's section on Bankruptcy Options for Married Couples).

What Vehicles and Insurance Are Covered by the Motor Vehicle Exemption?

Florida law is very specific about the type of vehicles that qualify for the motor vehicle exemption. You can use the Florida motor vehicle exemption to protect a vehicle that operates on Florida roads, transports people or property, and is propelled by a force other than muscular power, such as a car, truck, van, trailer, motor home, RV, or semitrailer. You may only protect one vehicle, and it may not be a bicycle or moped.

Checking Florida’s Exemption Laws

You can find Florida’s motor vehicle exemption at Fla. Stat. Ann 222.25.

You can find the Florida statutes on the website of the Florida State Legislature at www.leg.state.fl.us. To learn how to find state statutes, see Nolo’s Laws and Legal Research area.

Updated by: , J.D.

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