Your vehicle may be important to you for a variety of reasons. Perhaps it was your dream pickup you finally bit the bullet and purchased, or maybe it was the only car you could afford. Certainly, your vehicle gets you where you need to go, whether to work, school or just around town. However, if you are no longer able to keep up with the payments on your car or truck, you may be facing the unwelcome process of repossession.

In Florida and most other states, it takes very little to fall into repossession. Sometimes, missing one payment puts you in default, and your lender can take action to reclaim the vehicle that is collateral for your loan. If you know the lender is trying to repossess your vehicle, your reaction may be to stash it away where the repossession company cannot find it. However, this may not be a wise move.

The rights of repossessors

Repo professionals that banks and lenders hire to bring back vehicles in default are not easy to fool. They deal every day with car owners who don’t want to lose their vehicles, and they have skills and resources to track down the most likely places where you might try to hide your car. You may have many misconceptions about the repossession process, but here are some important facts:

  • Repossessors have the legal right to come onto your property to take your vehicle as long as they don’t breach the peace.
  • In some jurisdictions, repo professionals have authority to enter your garage to get a vehicle in default, even if the garage is locked.
  • Your vehicle is not safe from repossession in your neighbor’s driveway, in the driveway of a relative or friend, or in the woods behind your house.
  • Repo professionals know where you work and where your relatives live, and they often watch your home or follow you if you drive away from your house.
  • They may claim your vehicle in public places, such as the parking lot of a grocery store, your workplace or if you leave your vehicle at a gas pump to pay for your purchase.

Perhaps the most important fact to know is that hiding your vehicle from a valid repossession is a criminal offense known as fraud. Your lender can file civil and criminal charges against you if you make it difficult for repossessors to take a vehicle when your payments are in default. Additionally, the more difficult it is for repossessors to find your vehicle, the more they charge the lender for their services. The lenders pass this cost on to you by adding it to your debt.

If you are in default on your vehicle loan, you may still be able to negotiate with your lender to avoid repossession. However, you may find it beneficial to seek the advice of an attorney who can advocate for you and provide information about your alternatives for debt relief.