The West Virginia Motor Vehicle Exemption in Bankruptcy

The West Virginia motor vehicle exemption protects equity in your car if you file for bankruptcy. Learn more.

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The West Virginia motor vehicle exemption 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 West Virginia car exemption: how much it is, what types of vehicles it covers, how it works for married couples, how to find the applicable statute, what other exemptions you can use to protect your car, 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

West Virginia’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 West Virginia’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 West Virginia’s Motor Vehicle Exemption

In West Virginia, you can exempt up to $2,400 in equity in your car or other vehicle.

Example. Bobby owns a 2008 Hyundai Elantra. The car is worth $6,000, and he owes $4,000 to the dealership -- which means he has $2,000 of equity in his car. Because the full $2,000 is covered by the West Virginia motor vehicle exemption amount, if he files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy the bankruptcy trustee cannot take and sell his car.

The Federal Motor Vehicle Exemption

Some states allow bankruptcy filers to use the Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions instead of state exemptions, but West Virginia is not one of these states.

Using West Virginia’s Wildcard Exemption to Protect Your Car

If the equity in your vehicle is more than $2,400, you may be able to cover the extra equity by using a wildcard exemption.  West Virginia has an $800 wildcard exemption that you can use to protect additional equity in your vehicle. Even better, if you do not use the full homestead exemption amount in West Virginia (which is currently $25,000) to protect your home or burial plot, you can use the remainder to protect equity in your motor vehicle.

Example. Let's say Bobby’s Hyundai is worth $10,000. Since he owes $4,000 on it, he has $6,000 of equity, and the motor vehicle exemption will only protect $2,400 of it. Bobby only used part of his homestead exemption and has $5,000 of the homestead exemption leftover. The remaining homestead exemption, added to the motor vehicle exemption, is sufficient to fully protect his car.

Can Married Couples Double West Virginia’s Motor Vehicle Exemption?

Some states allow married couples filing a joint bankruptcy petition to double the listed exemption amounts. West Virginia allows married couples to double the motor vehicle exemption and protect up to $4,800 of equity in a motor vehicle.

(To learn more about filing a joint bankruptcy with your spouse, see Bankruptcy Considerations for Married Couples).

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

The West Virginia exemption allows you to protect one motor vehicle, such as a car, van, or truck.

Other Information About West Virginia’s Vehicle Exemption

In West Virginia, you can protect up to $1,500 of equity in “tools of the trade,” meaning property you use to carry on your trade or business. If you use your vehicle to carry on your profession, for example, a tow truck, you can protect additional value under this exemption. Note that using your vehicle to commute to and from work will generally not qualify the vehicle as a tool of the trade.

Checking West Virginia’s Exemption Laws

You can find West Virginia’s motor vehicle exemption at W. Va. Code Section 38010-4(b).

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

by: , Attorney

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