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How Late Can You Be on Your Car Payment?

Is There a Grace Period For Car Payments?
LanternUpdated November 25, 2023
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
It’s possible your car loan has a grace period if you cannot make a car loan payment on or before its due date. A grace period for a car loan is usually 10 days past the payment due date. During this time, the car payment typically will be accepted without penalties or other consequences. Keep reading to learn how car payment grace periods work, if there is a late car payment fee, if you can make a partial car payment, and more.

When Is a Car Payment Considered Late?

As with other banking agreements, a car payment is typically considered late if the amount due has not been posted to the lender on the date it is due. However, it’s always a good idea to check with the specific lender as to when a car payment is considered late. Some lenders may require the payment to be posted by 5 p.m. on the due date, while others may allow payments to be posted until midnight.Some lenders may also extend a so-called “grace period” to auto borrowers, which allows a payment toward car loan principal and interest to be counted as on time so long as it arrives within a certain window after the due date.Because many auto loans are considered “secured loans” — with the car itself used as collateral — timely car payments are especially important in order to avoid car repossession. The easiest way to avoid the consequences of a late car payment is by ensuring that all payments are made on time, based on the schedule outlined in the terms of the car loan agreement.

How Many Days Is the Grace Period for Car Payments?

In general, a grace period for a car payment is 10 days past the payment due date. During this time, the car payment typically will be accepted without penalties or other consequences.That being said, there is no legally defined grace period attached to a car loan. Although some lenders may offer a late car payment grace period or be willing to waive late fees and penalties on a slightly overdue payment — especially if it’s a rare occurrence — they’re not obliged to do so.

Is There a Late Car Payment Fee?

Making a late car payment may result in late car payment fees and other penalties. Depending on the car loan agreement, these fees may be applied as soon as the payment becomes past due (for example, after 5 p.m. if the payment deadline is at the close of business), or if a grace period is offered and the payment is not made by the end of that window. However, just like a grace period, late fees on car payments will depend on the specific terms in the car loan contract as well as state laws. The best way to find out whether late car payments are subject to fees is to check the loan agreement or talk to the lender.

Is Partial Payment Considered a Late Car Payment?

Unfortunately, making a partial payment likely won’t help you out, as a partial car payment is generally still reported as a late payment. A partial payment may not cover your car loan finance charges for the month.That being said, this could vary depending on whether this is your first time making a late payment or it’s become a habit. Depending on the lender, they may accept a partial payment for the time being if you’ve never made a late car payment before.

What Happens If You Exceed the Grace Period on Your Car Payment?

If you still haven’t made a payment even after the late car payment grace period comes and goes, you could face consequences, such as late car payment fees, credit score declines, and even repossession of your vehicle. Here’s the rundown on the possible repercussions:

1. Late Car Payment Fees

The first way that late car payments can cost you is in the form of extra fees and penalties. There is no set formula that dictates the cost of late car payment fees — these will vary from lender to lender and depend on the specific car loan as well as your state’s laws.As such, the only way to determine precisely how much a late car payment may cost is to consult the car loan agreement or check directly with the lender. (If an individual is at risk of a late payment due to a lack of cash flow, it’s a good idea to get this information in advance to weigh the full cost implications of missing the payment due date.)

2. Potential Impact on Your Credit Score

An individual’s credit score is a number used to inform future prospective lenders how likely that person is to pay their bills — and that score is determined by their existing credit payment behaviors. One’s credit score takes into account all types of existing debt, including car loans, and the repayment history. Late payments are considered a sign of risk and may reduce one’s score, which in turn can make it even harder to get lower car payments anytime down the road.While paying any bill late can indeed ding a person’s score, overdue payments are not noted on one’s credit report until they are a full billing cycle (usually about 30 days) past due. After that, lenders may report late payments to all three major credit bureaus.

3. Car Repossession

Car loans are secured loans that use the vehicle itself as collateral — meaning that if the purchaser defaults, the lender may recoup their loss by repossessing the car. But precisely how repossession works will depend on the car loan agreement and state laws. The car loan should spell out what constitutes a late payment, as well as if there is an acceptable grace period. Once a payment is officially considered late, the lender may be entitled to reclaim the vehicle or to remotely deactivate it. When a car is at risk of repossession, an individual may have a right to “cure” or reinstate the car loan, whether before or after repossession, if state law permits or this is written into the loan contract. If such a right exists, the individual would be able to make up the payment and keep their car.It’s important to note that repossession does not necessarily mean an individual can walk away from their lease altogether. They may still be required to repay some or all of their loan, and there may also be additional repossession costs. Additionally, a car repossession will also remain on an individual’s credit report for seven years from the original late payment.

Options to Avoid Repossession

In order to avoid your car being repossessed, there are a few things you can do.

Make Your Payments on Time

The best way to avoid a repossession is to avoid making a late car payment. But given the high cost of buying a car, that may be challenging — especially for individuals whose car loans have less than favorable rates. However, it’s always a good idea to make your monthly car payments a priority and do your best to pay them on time.

Refinance Your Car

Another way to possibly avoid your car being repossessed is to refinance your current auto loan. One of the benefits of car loan refinancing is that it can give individuals an opportunity to take advantage of more favorable loan terms — such as lower interest rates, a longer loan term or a lower initial payment — to make car payments more affordable.In some cases, such as if an individual chooses to spread their payments out over a longer period, this can increase the total cost of buying a car, but reduce their monthly payments. It is, however, important to note that there may be costs associated with refinancing, such as an early termination fee on the existing car loan and registration and/or title transfer fees.

Talk to Your Lender

And for individuals who may be staring down a late payment? Talk to the lender before the payment is due to see what arrangements can be made. Some lenders may allow a payment deferral (the option to “skip a payment” may also be written into the lease agreement) or be willing to make accommodations on a case-by-case basis.

The Takeaway

Buying a car can be expensive — and if you’re at risk of a late car payment, it can be even more so. One of the best ways to reduce the risk of late payments (whether or not your lender offers a grace period) is to find the most favorable loan for your individual circumstances. Lantern by SoFi can help you find out whether you’re eligible for a lower interest rate through auto refinancing.Compare auto loan refinance rates in just minutes!

Frequently Asked Questions

How many days late can you be on a car payment?
Does a grace period include weekends and holidays?
Do payments go through on weekends?
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About the Author



Lantern is a product comparison site that makes it easy for individuals to shop for products and compare offers with top lenders. Lantern is owned and operated by SoFi Lending Corp., the digital personal finance company that has helped over one million people get their money right.
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