What Happens if You Miss Auto Loan and Car Insurance Payments?

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In September 2023, the percentage of auto borrowers who were at least 60 days late on their bills rose to 6.11%, according to a Fitch Ratings report. That is the highest default level in nearly three decades.

Taking out an auto loan is how many people finance their vehicles, especially when buying newer cars. These loans are typically provided by banks, credit unions, manufacturers or financing companies, allowing you to spread the cost of a vehicle over several years at an interest rate, which varies according to credit score and special offers from the manufacturer.

While an auto loan can make purchasing a car more affordable, it also comes with responsibilities. Making regular, on-time payments to repay the loan is crucial. So is continuing to pay for full-coverage car insurance, which is required when you take out a loan.

Missing auto loan and car insurance payments can have severe consequences, including financial penalties, damage to your credit score, and, in some cases, vehicle repossession. Here’s what happens when you miss auto loan payment and car insurance payments.

Key Takeaways

  • Contacting your lender if you’re going to miss a car payment is the best way to avoid fees.
  • A missed payment will begin to hurt your credit as soon as 30 days after a missed payment and much more heavily 60 days after.
  • If you will be missing many car payments, it’s a good idea to trade in the car for a less expensive one.
  • Your car can be repossessed after non-payment and if you are uninsured.

The Impact of Missed Car Loan Payments

Missing a car loan payment can have serious consequences, and the later you are the worst it will be. A grace period for being late is usually not more than seven to 10 days.

Here are some things that happen when you don’t pay your car note.

Penalty Fee for Non-payment

Missing even a single auto loan payment will result in late fees. The specific amount of the late fee can vary between lenders, but generally ranges between $20 and $50. You can see what your penalty will be in the terms of your loan agreement.

If you are 30 days late or later, the lender will contact the credit bureau, and this will hurt your credit. See more below.

Impact on Your Credit Score

Payment history is 35% of your credit score. Aside from a home, a car loan is one of the more expensive payments people make. Therefore, a missed payment will have a heavy impact on your credit.

  • After 30 days of non-paying of a car note, the credit bureau will be notified by the lender.
  • After 60 days, the credit bureau will be contacted again. The impact on your credit score this time will be even greater.

Credit bureaus track your payment history, and even a single missed payment can lower your credit score by as much as 180 points and may stay on your credit reports for up to seven years.

A low credit score can cause your interest rates to soar, making everything you finance more expensive. You’ll also pay higher insurance premiums with bad credit because you’ll be seen as carrying more risk.

After the 60-day mark is when lenders begin to take actions towards repossession and other legal action.

Accumulated Interest

When you miss a payment, interest continues to accrue on the outstanding balance. This can result in a higher overall cost of paying off your loan.


If you continue to miss payments, the lender will repossess your vehicle. The lender can also repossess the car if you miss car insurance payments. They will then sell the vehicle to recover the remaining loan balance.

Repossession laws vary by state. In California, for example, a lender can start the repossession process after one missed payment.

Repossession of a car means that it can be towed without any warning or you may be given the option for a voluntary repossession, where you turn the car in yourself. The latter option is preferable because you’ll owe fewer fees.

Getting Sued

After your car is repossessed, a lender may also sue you to recover losses from your nonpayment, including collection and towing fees, if they apply.

What to Do if You Miss Auto Loan Payments

1. Review the Loan Agreement

Your loan may come with a grace period, giving you more time to make a payment without penalties.

2. Contact Your Lender

If you can't make an auto loan payment, contact your lender immediately. Some lenders are willing to work with you by forgiving one late payment or creating a payment extension or a loan modification.

Loan deferment is an option for a single missed payment. The missed payment is pushed to the end of the loan term, and will only pay the interest owed that month.

3. Create a Budget

A budget can help you manage your finances effectively to ensure that you have enough money in your account each month for a car payment. If possible, authorize your lender to do automatic withdrawals from your bank account towards a car payment each month so you don’t miss another payment again.

4. Consider Refinancing or Trading in Your Car

If your problem is bigger than a single incident of being unable to pay the car note, you should consider refinancing the loan to make it more manageable. Or you can trade it in for a less expensive car.

The lender can also repossess the car if you miss car payments and car insurance payments.

Car Payments and Car Insurance

In most states, auto insurance is a legal requirement. If you have an auto loan, your lender will require you to have comprehensive and collision coverage in addition to state-mandated liability coverage. This is to protect the lender's financial interest in the vehicle if it is damaged or stolen.

Do I Need Gap Coverage?

You should consider gap insurance, which is optional, if you have an auto loan on a newer car. It covers the "gap" between the vehicle's actual cash value and the remaining balance on your loan if the car is declared a total loss. Without gap insurance, you will owe whatever remains after the insurance company pays the value of the car according to its Kelley Blue Book value the day of the loss.

Repossession Due To Being Uninsured

If you are uninsured or get dropped by your insurer and do not find another policy, the lender can repossess the car. However, what they usually do first is buy a policy on your behalf and bill you for it along with the car payments. If you default on the payment, they can take possession of the car.

Lenders are not in the business of saving you money so compare car insurance rates yourself and buy your own car insurance policy.

Car insurance protects your interests because without it, you’ll have to pay for all repairs after an accident that is your fault, and you’ll have to continue making payments for the car even if it is totaled or stolen.

Get Your Free Auto Insurance Quote

Missing a Car Payment FAQs

What happens if I make a partial car loan payment when I can't pay the full amount?

If you contact your lender and discuss a partial payment or arranging a temporary payment plan, they may work with you without penalizing you. If you do not contact them, you’ll be considered late.

Can I refinance my car loan if I'm struggling to make payments?

Refinancing may potentially lower your monthly payments by extending the loan term. However, you’ll pay more in interest over the longer term.

Can I get my repossessed car back?

You can get your repossessed car back by paying the loan balance, late fees, and repossession costs immediately. 

Get a Free Auto Insurance Quote Online Now.