Is Your Car Too Expensive? Bankruptcy Can Help

Next to home mortgages, motor vehicle loans are often your largest debt. The average cost of a new car or truck sold in the U.S. during 2019 exceeded $36,000.00. Borrowers are taking vehicle purchase loans for 6 years or longer, and when interest rates are factored in, the loan can cost you thousands of dollars above the purchase price.

Unlike real estate purchases, motor vehicles depreciate, that is, they lose value every year. If you took out a loan to buy your car or truck payable over 4 to 6 years, there is a good chance that you will owe more on your vehicle that it is worth until year 3 or 4 of your contract, commonly known as “being under water”. This means that in the event of a financial crisis such as an illness or job layoff, you won’t be able to eliminate your financial obligations by selling your vehicle, and may wind up owing a substantial amount of money to the lender.

If you “roll over” your loan into a new loan for a less expensive car, you’ll just delay dealing with this issue because you will end up owing far more on the less expensive car than it will ever be worth. Further, your monthly car loan payment is not your only vehicle expense. Insurance costs can increase quickly and unexpectedly in the event of an accident or traffic tickets or DWI conviction. Routine maintenance and repairs also increase your cost of ownership. In sum, an unexpected job loss or change, illness, insurance claims or any number of other factors could turn that your new car into a major financial problem.

Bankruptcy And Car Loans

Personal bankruptcy offers a number of options to address the “too expensive car” problem. The easiest choice would be to use the power of bankruptcy to terminate the loan and surrender your vehicle back to the lender. In a Chapter 7, any deficiency balance will be discharged as an unsecured debt, and in a Chapter 13, any deficiency balance will be paid as an unsecured debt, often at pennies on the dollar – if the lender files a proof of claim.

However, if the debtor wants to retain the vehicle, another option would be to use the cram down provision in the Bankruptcy Code to restructure the car loan as part of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If your loan was taken out more than 910 days (about 2 ½ years) prior to filing, a Chapter 13 cram down allows you to modify the interest rate (usually) and to reduce your outstanding principal balance to equal the fair market value of your vehicle. If you owe substantially more than the value of your vehicle, the cram down can save you thousands of dollars.

Even if you cannot cram down your loan, you can still reduce your monthly payment by including the unpaid balance in your Chapter 13 plan and setting a payment to the vehicle lender that fits your budget. You are not obligated to pay the contract rate of interest to the vehicle lender in a Chapter 13, which is very helpful in situations where someone has bad credit and interest rate is high.

Obviously the decision to file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 should be made in consultation with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer like Alexander Korotkin, Esq., and with full knowledge about how bankruptcy will impact your situation.

However, if you are having or foresee problems with payments due on your vehicle loan, you should certainly learn about and consider your bankruptcy options.

If you contemplating filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, or are dealing with debt problems in Western New York, including Rochester, Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation with a Rochester, NY, bankruptcy lawyer.

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