Can I Get My Personal Property After a Car Repo?

If your car is repossessed, you have a right to get back your personal belongings that were in the car.

If you default on your car loan, the lender has the right to repossess and sell your vehicle because your car is the collateral for the loan. But unless the loan papers you signed state otherwise, the creditor doesn't have a right to keep or sell any other property. The creditor must also use reasonable care to prevent others from causing loss or damage to your belongings. So, you have a right to get your personal belongings back. However, this right is not without some limits.

The Lender Must Return Loose Items

The car loan lender must preserve and return loose items such as clothing, tools, jewelry, and cellphones.

But the Lender Doesn't Have to Uninstall and Return Fixtures

Usually, though, the creditor doesn't have to return any fixtures, customizations, or improvements you made to the vehicle. For instance, the creditor doesn't have to disassemble and return sound systems, tire rims, or GPS devices that were installed on the car. If tools are required to uninstall your property, you might not be able to get it back. Instead, the creditor can sell the vehicle with those fixtures.

Do I Have to Pay a Fee to Get My Things Back?

In most states, creditors can't charge you a fee for storing or returning your personal property. Creditors usually only have a right to charge you storage fees pertaining to the car itself. So, the repo agent hired by a creditor to take the car also can't charge you money or a "convenience fee" to let you get your things back before the vehicle is towed away.

How to Get Your Personal Items Back After Repossession

Here are some ways to get your items back.

  • Get your belongings while the repo agent is present. If you're present during the repossession, the repo agent should allow you the opportunity to get into the car to get your things. If the agent doesn't offer you a chance to get your items, you should ask to do so right away.
  • State laws requiring notice or the right to inspection. If you're unable to retrieve your property before the creditor or repo agent takes your car, you still have other methods to get your things back. In some states, the creditor must send you a written notice and inventory of the property found in the car within a certain time frame, such as 48 hours of taking the car. Creditors might also have to give you an opportunity to inspect the vehicle at the storage facility and retrieve your property before the vehicle is auctioned or sold.
  • Check your car loan contract. You should also read your loan agreement. The loan agreement might state that you have a limited amount of time, such as 24 hours, to contact the creditor and make arrangements to get your items back.
  • Contact the creditor immediately. Most importantly, you should contact the creditor right away. Don't wait for the creditor to send you a notice. Also, make sure to document your communications with the creditor and keep your own written inventory and, preferably, photographs of any personal items you keep in the car.

What If I Can't Get My Property Back?

If the creditor refuses to cooperate in returning your property, or if items are missing or damaged, you might have a claim against the creditor. In some instances, it might be a crime for a creditor to wrongfully keep and sell your property. You should contact your state attorney general office or state consumer protection agency, or consult with a local attorney.

Get Professional Help
Get debt relief now.
We've helped 205 clients find attorneys today.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you