Updated March 23, 2021. This page will be updated regularly, so check in often for new information.
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Don’t panic — there are several options if you’re having trouble making ends meet.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recommends talking to your auto lender as soon as possible if you’re having trouble paying your auto loan, or think you may have trouble doing so.
Even if your lender is offering COVID-19 relief— or agrees to your request for help — you may need to supply proof that you’ve been affected, such as unemployment insurance documentation or possibly medical bills.
Also called a car payment extension, a deferral is when you push payments back until a later date. You are not skipping payments — you will make them, just at a later date, with interest. According to Experian, one of the three main credit bureaus, doing this will not affect your credit score, although it will be noted in your credit history.
Changing the date on which you make your car payment could give you more time to comfortably come up with the money.
Ask your lender to waive late fees and other penalties for late or missed payments in this time.
A payment plan is typically for when you’ve already missed your scheduled payments. It’s a new payment calendar that aims to help you catch up and repay your missed payments in manageable portions while you make the current payments that are due on time.
If none of the tactics mentioned above work and you’re facing repossession, it’s still a good idea to talk to your lender. Repossessing vehicles is actually an expensive process for lenders, and often they’d rather help you get back on track. You can read more about car repossession.
You could also reach out to a nonprofit credit counseling agency for advice and help. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) offers free and discounted financial advice.
Earlier in the pandemic, companies mailed so-called “auto stimulus checks” to lure buyers onto empty car lots. Such marketing materials should not be confused with the actual stimulus checks — known as economic impact payments — that have been approved by Congress. Continue to be vigilant about such coronavirus scams even as the pandemic surpasses the one-year mark.
The Federal Trade Commission recommends not responding to texts and emails about checks from the government. You can get reliable information about the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic here.
If you’d like to buy a car in person during the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a mask in public settings, even outdoors, and keeping a distance of six feet between you and others. Dealerships should sanitize a vehicle before and after each test drive and limit the number of customers inside the dealership, according to local guidelines.
If you’d like to purchase a car from your couch, here are the best online car-buying sites. Sites like Carvana, Vroom and CarMax offer a fully-online process with return policies and limited warranties to go with each vehicle. Many dealerships and automakers are also offering delivery and curbside services.
There are still 0% APR car deals for buyers with excellent credit. But even if you don’t qualify for new-car incentives, auto loan rates are still generally lower than they were a year prior.
Lower rates may offer an opportunity to refinance the car you already have. Refinancing isn’t right for everyone, but it may be a good fit if:
Refinancing during the pandemic might not make sense if your credit score has dropped or if you are currently unemployed. Lenders will most likely check your credit and ask for verification of employment.