Car Title Loans & Bankruptcy

A car title loan is when you borrow money and offer your car as collateral, and if you default, the lender can repossess your car. Exactly how much you may borrow and how quickly you need to repay the loan depends on your loan contract and the value and equity in your car. The lender may be able to take your car and sell it, keeping the difference between what you owed on the loan and the sale price. If the vehicle sells for less than what is owed you can still be in debt to the lender. If that were to happen you could discharge the debt in bankruptcy whether it is chapter 7 bankruptcy or chapter 13 bankruptcy. What the lender is permitted to do is dependent on state law and some states don’t allow vehicle title loans at all.

Note that you will most likely need to pay back a lot more than what you borrow. Hi interest rates and the cost of borrowing the money, means these are usually very expensive loans. The Federal Trade Commission says lenders often charge a title loan APR of 300%. Some states cap APRs for vehicle title loans, but the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau extended its deadline for putting new protections into place for borrowers who take on vehicle title and other high-cost installment loans. It has proposed rolling back requirements for lenders to determine upfront if borrowers could afford to repay the loans. Often people in desperate situations will try to obtain such a loan before filing bankruptcy.

What is a car title? A car title is an official, state-issued document that says who owns the vehicle. It will list the owner’s name and the car’s year, make, model and the vehicle identification number or “VIN Number.” Every time the car has a new owner and every time the owner moves to a new state, the title will change. Vehicle title loan lenders will often require a “clear” title, meaning you own your car outright and free and clear of other liens or loans against the vehicle.

What if you don’t own your car outright? It may be harder to get a vehicle title loan or you may not be able to borrow as much money as you may need, or you may not be able to get a car title loan at all if you already have a loan on your car, depending on your state’s laws. You technically don’t own the car, the lender does. Depending on your state’s law, you may not even have a title in-hand, the lender may have it. If you do have the title and still owe on your car, it will say there is a lien on your car. This makes in more difficult to obtain such a loan.

The Benefits of a Car Title Loan

Car title loans are loans of last resort. It’s possible that a bank or credit union will offer car title loans at lower rates than storefront lenders.

Easier to Qualify

Because the lender knows it has something of value to take (your car) if you don’t pay it back, it is likely to have more relaxed credit score and income requirements than those for other types of loans. However, your state might impose certain income or other requirements. Again, a title loan should be a last resort for an emergency situation. If you are considering such a loan you should consult with a bankruptcy attorney first to explore other options.

Greater Loan Amount

Depending on how much your car is worth, you may be able to borrow a greater amount than a payday loan, which is another type of installment loan that uses your paycheck as collateral instead of a car title. Most auto title loans are for 25% to 50% of the car’s value, usually between $100.00 and $5,500.00 though some lenders may offer as much as $10,000 or more.

• How do you know how much your car is worth? Lenders will use industry standards like NADA or Kelly Blue Book to look up how much your car is worth. Do not expect that they will use the high retail value but rather the wholesale or trade in value. They will usually offer you less than this amount so that if you don’t pay back the loan and they take your car, they can then sell it for a profit. You can use the same online industry guide for free to get an idea of the amount you could borrow.

The Drawbacks of a Car Title Loan

We can’t emphasize this enough that vehicle title loans are expensive, more expensive than nearly any other type of credit and potentially risky. If you live in Massachusetts and are considering such a loan it may be best to schedule a free consultation with a debt lawyer or bankruptcy attorney before you make a mistake.

A Cycle of Debt

Lenders for car title loans make more money if borrowers stay in debt. In addition to high APRs, title lenders often charge fees or costs. If you cannot repay the loan, a “rollover” loan would fold all of those costs into a new loan. What sounds like a plus really isn’t because the new loan would add more fees and interest, making it even more difficult to get out of debt. CFPB data suggest that’s exactly what happens as a significant number of vehicle title loan borrowers enter multiple rollover loans and the cycle of debt begins.

You Could Lose Your Car

Default on your car title loan and the lender could repossess and sell your car. To add insult to injury, you may even be charged a repossession fee and auction fees. Some lenders require borrowers to furnish them an extra set of keys or install a device that could impair your ability to start the engine if you do not make payments. These devices may be used for repossession or as a way to remind borrowers to pay their loans on time. When the CFPB studied vehicle title loan borrowers between 2010 and 2013, 1 in 5 or 20% had their vehicle seized or repossessed.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are in debt and desperate for money to keep up with your bills it may benefit you to speak with us. We are Massachusetts bankruptcy attorneys serving all of Bristol County Massachusetts and Plymouth County Massachusetts. Attorneys Anthony Bucacci and Robert Simonian are Massachusetts bankruptcy lawyers helping people file bankruptcy in all of Massachusetts and particularly Southeastern Massachusetts including Fall River, Seekonk, Swansea, Freetown, Westport, Somerset, New Bedford, Dartmouth, Assonet, Fairhaven, Assonet, Mattapoisett, Middleboro, Lakeville, Raynham, Attleboro. Call us today or visit our website today to schedule a free consultation.