Who Can Help Me When My Car Payment Is Behind?

If you're behind on your car payment, you're probably scared and nervous about what's going to happen next. The reality is that your car could be repossessed, but if you act fast, you can get help with making a payment that you and your lender can live with.

Your Lender

Ideally, call your lender before you miss a payment, but if you've already missed a payment, there's still time to undo some of the damage done. Contact your lender to ask about any hardship programs it may offer that can reduce your payments or interest for a limited time. Be prepared to plead your case by offering proof of why you can no longer make the full payment — unemployment and medical problems are the two reasons most people use to ask for forbearance. Don't agree to a payment you know you can't make, however; offer the lender something lower than you can easily make, and aim to meet in the middle.

Credit Counselor

If your car payment isn't the only debt you're having trouble repaying, it may be time to talk to a credit counselor at a reputable nonprofit credit counseling agency. A credit counselor can help you take a look at your finances to see what you're doing wrong. If you simply have more debt than you can pay, a credit counselor can arrange a debt management plan with you and your creditors that can reduce your monthly payments, reduce your interest or fees or otherwise create a workable payment solution for you. Debt management plans often last three to five years; you usually have to agree not to use or seek credit during that period.

Bankruptcy Attorney

You may be behind on your car payments because you simply have no money left over after living expenses to pay any other bills. If your income has dropped dramatically and you can't repay your debts, bankruptcy may be your only option. It may be worth your while to see a bankruptcy attorney, who can advise you of your options for bankruptcy. Be warned, however, that you could lose your car as part of the bankruptcy — but you also lose the car payment.

A Buyer

It's a last-ditch effort, but if bankruptcy, credit counseling and contacting your lender aren't working, selling the car may allow you to pay off enough of the debt that you can make a workable payment arrangement on the rest. You can try selling through Craigslist or other online and print classifieds sites, or, you can contact new and used car dealerships to see if they're interested in buying the car from you.

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