What Do I Do if I Can’t Afford My Car Payment?

With the coronavirus severely impacting the economy, more and more Americans are facing furloughs or layoffs at work. That means many people won’t be able to make their car payment.

So, what should you do if this happens to you?

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Here’s What to Know if You Can’t Make Your Car Payment

The key thing to do if you can’t make your car payment is to open up the lines of communication with your lender.

Several lenders are already stepping up efforts to help customers who lose their job because of the pandemic:

  • Ally Bank – You can defer your payment for up to 120 days. Your loan will continue to accrue interest, but you won't be assessed any late penalties.
  • Chase – While offering no specifics on what kind of help is available, Chase says, "If you can't make your next payment or you missed your payment, we may be able to help you."
  • Huntington – You can defer a payment for up to 90 days with no damage to your credit report.
  • Wells Fargo – Options for help include alternate payment arrangements; changing the due date of your payment; and deferring a payment or extending the maturity date.

Check with your lender to see what assistance they’re offering, if any.

Automakers Want to Help, Too

The auto industry is really taking it on the chin at this unprecedented time. In addition to plant closures, the industry is also ailing from consumer reluctance to start new auto financing.

Perhaps that's for the best: Money expert Clark Howard has warned consumers to be wary of making big new purchases at this uncertain time.

However, if you did get a new car recently, several automakers have special programs to assist should you lose a job because of COVID-19 and find yourself unable to make your car payment.

Some automakers are handling requests for help on a case-by-case basis. If you financed through your automaker, get in touch with them and ask for payment assistance if you need it.

Help Is Available…But You Have to Take This Additional Step

The help options we’ve outlined above all require you to do one thing…

You must get in touch with your lender and tell them you’re having difficulty making your auto payment.

According to Clark, the reality is that your lender really wants to and needs to find a way to work with you at this difficult time.

"I can tell you — the lender does not want your vehicle," Clark says. "Because right now, if they repossess from you, they're selling those vehicles at a much larger loss than they would have a month ago. So they have a direct incentive to work with you for a while to see if you can get back on your feet."

Final Thought

As with so many things during this unusual and unprecedented time, communication is key.

"The big thing not to do is hide from this," Clark says. "Because if you just don't tell them anything and you're not making your payments, they just proceed on a regular track of doing a repossession of your vehicle."

You can get Clark's full prescription to recession-proof your finances in our article, Coronavirus: Follow These 3 Steps to Prepare Now for a Recession.

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