How to Negotiate Your Car Payoff Balance

In general, lenders aren't eager to negotiate your auto loan payoff balance. You signed an agreement to pay the borrowed funds back, and the car itself acts as security for it, so there's a built-in limit to the maximum loss the lender will be willing to take. You'll have a better chance of success if you offer a lump sum of cash for the payoff balance you negotiate.

Mention Bankruptcy

Often, lenders have no good reason to negotiate your auto loan payoff balance, since they can just repossess the car if you fail to make your payments. Infiniti Financing, for example, explicitly states that it will not negotiate the payoff balance of a loan.

To get a lender to negotiate, bankruptcy attorney Linda Thompson suggests you mention that you're thinking about filing for bankruptcy. Lenders may not be able to recoup the entire payoff balance in the event that you declare bankruptcy, so they may be more willing to work with you now to mitigate that risk. Don't make this threat unless it's a real possibility -- your lender can pull your credit report, so if it sees that you have no delinquencies on other accounts or any other indicators that you're unable to meet other obligations, it won't take your bluff seriously.

Stay the Course

Your lender won't make it easy for you to negotiate the payoff, so be persistent. Financial author Jason Rich says that if your initial requests are denied, ask to speak with a supervisor until you find someone who will work with you. Rich also warns to never agree to pay more than you really can afford. Negotiating a settlement that you can't actually pay doesn't do you any good.

Offer a Lump Sum

Thompson also notes that lenders are more willing to negotiate if they know they'll get an immediate payout. Being able to offer a lump sum of cash is a great bargaining chip. To make the lender feel more at ease, provide a copy of your bank statement that proves you have the cash on hand to cover the amount, or other evidence that indicates you'll be able to back up your offer .

Make it Official

If you do get the payoff balance you want, the last thing you need is for the lender to renege on the offer. Avoid this by putting the new payoff balance in writing, dating the document and having both parties sign it. Once the payment is made, request written confirmation that the loan has been paid off.