Are you in danger of having your car repossessed by Santander? You’re not alone. The number of seriously delinquent auto loans has spiked significantly in the last few years; nearly record-breaking volumes were noted in a 2017 Manheim report. To help you sort out Santander Consumer USA’s repossession policy, we’ve outlined the process step by step and offer advice at each stage.

In This Article

The Santander Repossession Policy

The following information is based on general research regarding repossession as well as information straight from Santander’s website. However, since Santander’s policy on repossession will differ depending on your specific contract with the company, in areas where we have been vague, you can review your contract with Santander for specifics.

When Will Santander Repossess Your Vehicle and How to Prevent It

Laws vary slightly from state to state but most often your car can be repossessed immediately after you default on your loan. Typically, failure to make a prompt payment will put you in default. Your contract should tell you what exactly constitutes a default in your case.

If you’re just a few days late, you likely have nothing to worry about. Santander doesn’t charge a late fee until you’re 15 days late on your payment. If you can’t make your monthly payment, Santander suggests contacting an account manager right away to work out a solution. Their account managers can be reached at (888) 222-4227.

Keep in contact with Santander and let them know you’re trying to get them their money. Generally, companies that give out car loans don’t want to repossess your vehicle because doing so isn’t nearly as profitable as receiving the entire loan value. That said, if you’re unable to work out a solution with Santander, your vehicle is in danger of being repossessed. Many report their car being repossessed between 60 and 90 days after their last payment due date.

Military Protection

Santander notes that it provides a program that “goes beyond the minimum requirements” of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which provides benefits and protection when a service member is called to active duty. Santander not only includes protection from repossession unless a court order or written waiver is obtained but also a fixed interest rate of six percent and the option to end a vehicle lease without an early termination fee.

The Repossession Process

As we mentioned above, many people report having their car repossessed between 60 and 90 days after their last payment due date. But how exactly does the repossession process work?

Each state has their own laws regarding car repossession but most are very similar because the Uniform Commercial Code, which applies to securities and repossessions, has been adopted by the majority of states. In general, your creditor (or the repossession service they’ve hired) is free to come to your home, workplace, or any other location to take your car — most states don’t even have to notify you ahead of time. That said, you do have some rights.

The Breach the Peace law varies slightly from state to state, but in general, your car must be taken in a peaceful manner. Technically, your creditor can’t take your car if you object to it because it creates a risk of violence. Courts usually rule that creditors who open garage doors in order to take a car have “breached the peace.” If there’s a risk of violence, they’ll have to get the sheriff to come take your car.

If your car has been successfully repossessed, any property inside the car is still yours. This includes loose items such as clothing, cell phones, and CDs. If you aren’t able to get your belongings beforehand, the law requires that your creditor return them to you — it’s your car alone, not the possessions within it, that’s collateral for your auto loan.  Note, however, that “fixtures” on your car such as CD players, sound systems, GPS devices, etc., are considered part of your car, and therefore are collateral for the loan and can be repossessed.

After Repossession

Once your car has been repossessed you do still have some options.

Redemption and Reinstatement

Santander is required to give you notice which allows for reasonable time to react and review your options before your vehicle is sold. State laws differ slightly but generally, you have at least 10 days. We recommend quickly making a call to Santander to see if you can work something out. Most often, you’ll have two options for getting your car back at this point: redemption or reinstatement.

In most states, you have the right to redeem your vehicle by paying your past due payments and the entire balance on the loan. This may also include fees from the repossession such as paying the repossession service, storage fees, and even attorney fees. Your right to redeem ends when your vehicle has been sold.

If your car has been repossessed, chances are high that you don’t have the funds to redeem your vehicle. That said, reinstating your loan might be a better option. You can reinstate your loan by paying the amount by which you’re behind on your loan as well as any fees related to the repossession.


If you’re unable to work something out with Santander, your vehicle will likely go to auction. Most states require your creditor to notify you when and where the sale will take place. You do have the right to bid on your car at the sale though this doesn’t mean you’ll be getting a better deal because you still have to pay the deficiency.

Paying the Deficiency

The deficiency is the difference between the remaining amount on the loan and what was received for the vehicle at the auction. The deficiency also includes fees related to the repossession.

While not all creditors actively pursue the deficiency fee, Santander and other creditors do have the right to sue you if it isn’t paid upon their request. They may give you the option to set up a payment plan for the deficiency or even settle for a percentage of what you owe. If you don’t have the means to pay back the deficiency or any assets, you may not have to take any action; though, if the debt continues to trouble you, filing for bankruptcy may be your best option.

Renewing Your Registration

If you managed to get your vehicle back after repossession, you may have trouble renewing your registration. Some states require a title to be placed in the creditor’s name after it has been repossessed. Santander states that it will make every effort to place the title back into your name, but your help may be required to do so. If you’re having trouble renewing your registration, contact the Santander title department at (800) 526-0157.

Raising Your Credit Score

Having your car repossessed is not kind to your credit score. In fact, it will show up on your credit report for seven years. Initially, it will have a large impact on your score, though the significance will lessen over time. Your credit will be clean again (the repossession won’t be there anymore) seven years after the original delinquency date — that is, if your car is repossessed, the seven-year period it remains on your credit begins on the date of the first missed payment that led to the repossession

If you’re able to pay off the deficiency on your loan or set up a repayment plan with Santander, you may be able to improve your score more quickly. You may also want to request that Santander report the loan as resolved. It can then be noted as “Paid in Full” or “Satisfied” on your report, lessening the impact.

In Summary

If you’re in danger of having your car repossessed, you’re not alone and you’re not without options. A missed payment doesn’t mean immediate repossession. You can expect to be charged a late fee one you’re 15 days late and to see your car repossessed after two to three months of nonpayment. If your car is repossessed, you have the option to redeem, which involves buying out the remainder of your loan, including fees. You might also opt to reinstate your loan if you don’t have the money to redeem. If you get your car back, you’ll have to deal with re-registering the title, paying a deficiency, and a much lower credit score. To reach an optimal solution (if there is such a thing), it’s best to keep in contact with Santander throughout the entire process. If you’re able to work things out with them on some level, they’re likely to respond well. After all, selling a repossessed car is not nearly as profitable as receiving the entire loan amount would be.

Want a change? Consider Capital One’s Repo Policy.