How to Handle Auto Loan Co-Signer Issues During Financial Hardship


How to Handle Auto Loan Co-Signer Issues During Financial Hardship

Life happens. Sometimes we hit bumps in the road and run into financial struggles. If you have a co-signer on your auto loan, falling behind on payments can negatively impact both of you. While an uncomfortable conversation, communicating openly with your co-signer and lender can help you navigate solutions and avoid further hardship down the road.

Understand How Co-Signing Works

When you have a co-signer on an auto loan, you are not the only person responsible for repaying it. Your co-signer signed the loan agreement too, pledging to cover the payments if you cannot [2]. This arrangement helped you qualify for the loan or receive better terms, but it also means you share the financial obligations.

If you miss payments, the lender can pursue your co-signer for the money owed in addition to any late fees or penalties. Both your credit scores may take a hit as well. While an uncomfortable situation, being upfront with your co-signer shows respect and gives them time to prepare.

Communicate Openly With Your Co-Signer

Let your co-signer know about your financial hardship right away. Explain what happened – job loss, medical bills, etc. – and why you are struggling with the payments. Being transparent allows your co-signer to understand the situation better.

Discuss how long you expect the hardship to last. Can you resume normal payments in a couple months once you find a new job? Or will it take six months to recover and get back on track? Giving your co-signer a timeline allows them to plan ahead in case they need to step in and help.

Most importantly, make it clear you take the co-signed loan obligation seriously and intend to repay it. Assure your co-signer you will resume payments as soon as possible. They agreed to co-sign because they care, not because they want to pay your loan for you.

Ask How Your Co-Signer Can Help

After explaining your situation, discuss how your co-signer may be able to help. Could they cover the monthly payments temporarily until you get back on your feet? Even partial payments would show good faith. Or can they lend you money for the payments until your hardship passes?

If they cannot assist financially, ask if they can communicate with the lender on your behalf. Lenders may be more receptive discussing options with the co-signer. Just make sure your co-signer understands your repayment plans so you present a united front.

Be gracious and understanding if your co-signer cannot help. They co-signed as a favor, not a lifelong commitment. Express your appreciation for their past help and concern. But avoid guilt trips or manipulation – those will only damage your relationship.

Explore Relief Options With Your Lender

If your co-signer cannot help cover the payments, contact your lender directly to discuss relief options. Be honest about your hardship and timeline. Then ask what can be done to avoid default and minimize damage to both your credit scores.

Common options may include:

  • Temporary payment reduction or forbearance
  • Extending the loan repayment term to lower monthly payments
  • Waiving late fees during the hardship period

A lender may be willing to work with you, but you have to speak up and ask for help. Be persistent and escalate your call if needed until you reach someone who can assist. Document who you spoke with and what was agreed. Follow up any verbal promises in writing to avoid misunderstandings.

Explore Refinancing or Selling the Vehicle

If your lender cannot offer workable relief options, refinancing or selling your vehicle may be necessary. Refinancing shifts the loan to a new lender, ideally with better terms to ease the financial pressure.

To qualify for refinancing, you will likely need your co-signer to co-sign again unless your credit has significantly improved. Be honest about your situation and discuss whether they are willing to help facilitate the refinance.

As a last resort, selling the vehicle settles the loan obligation completely. But this leaves you without a vehicle, so should only be considered if truly needed. Discuss this option with your co-signer as well before moving forward.

Keep Your Co-Signer Informed

However the situation progresses, keep your co-signer in the loop with regular status updates. Let them know if you secured financial relief from the lender, refinanced the loan, or sold the vehicle. Or if your hardship ended and you resumed normal payments.

Your co-signer put their credit on the line to help you, so continued transparency is key. Plus staying in touch shows you still care about maintaining your relationship despite the difficult circumstances.

Avoid Further Hardship Down the Road

Once you recover and resume payments, take steps to avoid repeating the hardship down the road:

  • Build up an emergency fund with 3-6 months of living expenses
  • Stick to a workable budget that leaves room for unexpected expenses
  • Explore loan protection or credit insurance to cover payments if hardship recurs
  • Ask the lender to remove your co-signer from the loan once your credit improves

Learning from challenges helps us grow stronger and make better choices moving forward. With open communication, understanding, and smart planning, you can overcome financial hurdles without jeopardizing important relationships.


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