What happens if I try to hide the car from the repo man?

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If you've fallen behind on car loan payments, and fear that the lender might repossess your car, should you hide your car from the repo man?

Question:

I have fallen behind on my car loan payments. I think the lender might repossess the car. I'm getting a tax refund soon, which should be more than enough to pay off the car loan. I want to prevent my car from being repossessed so that I don't have to pay for the extra fees. What happens if I try to hide the car from the repo man while I'm waiting for my tax refund to arrive?

Answer:

Whether you can hide or lock up the car to buy yourself time to pay off the loan depends on where you live. In most states this won't violate any laws, unless you do it with the intent to defraud the bank.  For example, if you normally keep the car locked up in your garage, you can continue to do so. In some states, however, deliberately hiding a car from the repossession company is a crime.

Will Hiding the Car Work?

In most states, a car loan creditor is permitted to come on to your property and take your car so long as it doesn't have to cut chains, break locks, or damage property in the process. So, if you "hide" your car by parking it behind your house or garage, or in the woods on your property, the creditor may still be able to find it and repossess it. Similarly, if you "hide" your car by keeping the car in a neighbor's driveway or at your place of employment, the repo man can still legally get it, assuming he knows where it is. And in some states, doing this might be illegal.

However, if you keep the car locked in a garage or behind a chained gate, the creditor cannot repossess the car because it would be breaching the peace (damaging property). Again, whether you are allowed to do this depends on whether you trying to defraud the car loan lender.

The Creditor Can Get Your Car Through Replevin

But if you make it hard for the repo man to get it, then the creditor may use another method to get the car back, called replevin. Replevin can be just as costly as a repo, if not more so.

With replevin, the car lender files a lawsuit seeking an order from the court requiring you to give the car back. If you fail to abide by the court order, you may be subject to both civil and criminal penalties. The creditor can also get a money judgment against you, usually for the balance owed on the loan or lease, along with charges and costs. To learn more about replevins, see Car Repossession v. Replevin.

What Can You Do to Avoid Repossession or Replevin?

Rather than dodge your creditor, you might be better off talking to it about your situation and deferring things until your refund comes. Creditors are often willing to work things out with a borrower, especially if that means they will get paid soon. It doesn't hurt to ask your creditor for a break. You could save yourself a big headache, not to mention a lot of money.

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