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I got a loan on a car from CarMax for my girlfriend. She was to make the payments but instead took off with it & I can't find her. Should I report it stolen? The insurance, loan and registration are in my name. I want to let it go back for repossession.

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    Legal advice is a bit off topic here - visit and talk to a lawyer..
    – iLuvLogix
    Jun 20 at 16:07
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    Whose name is the car's title in?
    – glibdud
    Jun 20 at 16:49
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    The title is the important thing. If the title is in her name, it doesn't matter if it's registered in your name: she can re-register in hers. She can get her own insurance. It doesn't matter if you signed for the loan, because the bank doesn't care about who legally owns the car, only who is legally responsible for the loan (which is you, even if you "only" co-signed for the loan).
    – chepner
    Jun 21 at 17:31
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    I’m voting to close this question because it is a question requiring legal advice.
    – Joe
    Jun 21 at 21:57
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    If you leave it to Carmax to deal with, they will hire lawyers, legal aides and repo people to deal with it, and then, charge you their fee + a markup. Or burn your credit report if you don't pay. So you are better off making this as DIY as possible. Can you find where it is normally parked? Do you have the ownership papers? Do you have a key? Jun 21 at 22:49

7 Answers 7

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Call the police and see what they can do to help get the car back (which might include reporting it stolen). Don't stop making payments or it will wreck your credit (not hers). When you get the car back, see how much carmax will give you for the car. Hopefully it is more than what you owe. If not, you can either hand it over, in which case that will still report it as a bad debt and might come after you for the difference, try and sell it yourself, or come up with the difference and pay off the rest of the debt.

And don't get a car loan (or any loan) for another person in the future unless you're married.

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    ... or even if you're married. At least in the USA, there really aren't any impediments to a spouse getting loans in their own name so long as family income is sufficient. Jun 21 at 13:37
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    "No, never. Sorry." The used car market has been like this for a while now. It's been possible for people to buy new cars, then sell them as used for much higher than they paid new. I personally know a few people that have had offers well above what they paid for the vehicles they currently drive.
    – Ben
    Jun 21 at 14:54
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    And it's possible (although unlikely) that the OP is 3 years into a 5-year loan and is no longer underwater. So it's unlikely but not impossible.
    – D Stanley
    Jun 21 at 16:15
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    @Ben why? Is it currently so hard to buy a new car? Jun 22 at 9:12
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    @EricDuminil Yes, component shortages make it very hard to purchase a new car currently. because manufacturers can't produce enough to fill demand.
    – Josef
    Jun 22 at 14:41
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I was in a similar situation 20 years ago and want to highlight one aspect you didn't mention, that kept me awake at night. This is your car, your insurance and your registration that she is driving on. If she damages property or injures someone, you are liable. This caused me to finally track my ex down, take the plates off the car, then call her and sell it to her for $1. I didn't want the car, I just wanted her to be liable for it. Plus, this got her out of my life for good.

The outstanding loan amount is nothing compared to what you could owe someone due to this liability. Good luck!

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    Reporting car as stolen helps with avoiding liability for thief action. Jun 21 at 18:12
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It is obviously best for everyone (you, the lender, and the insurance company) that she returns the car. Unless she is escaping your abuse, taking off is unacceptable.

Unless you wish to give the car to her and meet the payment for the car itself and insurance, you must report the car stolen. Failure to do so effectively gives consent to her using the car for which you are stuck paying. By taking an expensive asset of yours, she has clearly shown contempt for you. Ditch her and find a new girlfriend as she is untrustworthy with your basic economic interest.

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    "By taking an expensive asset of yours, she has clearly shown contempt for you." – We don't know the full story here, but note that the OP makes it very clear that the car was always intended to be hers.
    – Schmuddi
    Jun 21 at 7:33
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    It might have been intended for her use, but there's an implicit understanding that it come with her contributing to paying for it too. If she's not holding up her end of that, then it's OPs problem to deal with, and therefore car to report stolen and repossess. Jun 21 at 11:52
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    @Schmuddi since the registration is in OP's name, it's legally his, not hers regardless of who uses it. First thing OP should do is remove her name from the insurance, at which point she's driving illegally. Jun 21 at 13:39
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    As long as her name is on the insurance, the car is insured if she drives carelessly and causes damage to it or writes it off. Before you take her name off, figure out what would happen in that case. I suppose it's unlikely that she would pay for any damage.
    – gnasher729
    Jun 21 at 13:46
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    @CarlWitthoft Registration and title don't necessarily have to be the same, though. Title indicates who owns the car; registration indicates you have paid any required fees in your state and the car can legally be driven.
    – chepner
    Jun 21 at 16:19
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The loan tag & insurance are all in my name.

Good, this means that your property was actually stolen. If your name wasn't on the title then you're just paying for an asset that you don't own.

Do i jist let Carmax deal with it or what should i do from here???

Carmax doesn't give two squats what happens after they sell you a car. Carmax got paid in full by the bank (presumably CarMax Auto Finance for you) and you owe money to the bank. Unfortunately, for you, you no longer have the physical collateral for your loan.

Read over your loan documents carefully because there could be a clause in there that reads something like "loss of asset/collateral requires immediate repayment".

Report the car as stolen so that you have an official police reference number and file an insurance claim; I really hope your policy covers theft! Inform your loan lender as well!

Keep making your car payments on time until this situation is resolved or else you will wreck your credit.

If the car remains unrecovered for a certain amount of time then your insurance company writes you a check for the market value of the car. You take this money and use it to pay off your bank loan.

If the insurance check isn't big enough then you have to pay the remainder out of pocket; or in the unlikely event you got gap coverage then it would cover the difference.

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    I wonder if the insurance covers this as "theft", given that the gf got the car with permission initially
    – littleadv
    Jun 21 at 20:13
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    @littleadv I guess it depends on how you word it to the police. If there was a mutual expectation that it is returned in a reasonable amount of time then where does one draw the line?
    – MonkeyZeus
    Jun 21 at 20:26
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    The police will ask whose name is on the title, as she cannot be charged with stealing what is her own property. (Whether she has defaulted on any implied or explicit contract to pay for the loan taken out by the OP is a civil matter, not a criminal one.)
    – chepner
    Jun 22 at 16:00
  • @chepner OP says "The insurance, loan and registration are in my name". I guess OP did not clarify title so additional clarification could be needed.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Jun 22 at 16:04
  • Yeah, I'm not even sure every state allows a car to be registered to someone other than the owner, but it's my understanding that it's possible, so it's a pretty important point to clarify.
    – chepner
    Jun 22 at 16:22
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The situation here is that you took out a loan to buy a car, and then your girlfriend stole the car.

The only financial advice to give here is that unless the loan terms say otherwise, you still owe money to the lender. It is not their concern what happened to the car you bought with their money. If you fail to make payments, they will treat it as any other unpaid loan: They may sue you to try and force you to pay them money, they may try to seize other property (usually the court would have to authorize it first), at the least they will report it as a delinquent loan and your credit score will go down. This will probably happen through a collection agency rather than the lender itself, but unless your girlfriend's name is on the loan as well, the collector (or the lender) will probably not want to track down your girlfriend for you and get the car from her. They'll probably just say it's your problem and expect you to pay anyway. But that of course depends on the specific lender, collector and exact terms of the loan.

If you want the police to help you get the car back, you should of course let them know. This may have some not-so-nice consequences for your girlfriend, but stealing your car also sounds like not very nice. After you have a police report about the theft, you could try your insurance provider and see if they're willing to pay you anything - it depends entirely on the terms of your insurance plan.

This is mostly a legal matter, and you should talk to a lawyer about what your options are. They usually do free consultations. Just make sure you bring the paperwork, such as the title, bill of sale, loan contract and insurance contract, in case they ask to see it. You can also ask on https://law.stackexchange.com/. Note that your jurisdiction matters for the legal aspect.

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You didn't answer the MOST IMPORTANT detail: Who is ON TITLE to the car - that is, who is the official owner? From your post it sounds like she is - in which case the car is not stolen. It's her car, and she can do what she likes with it. Note that it doesn't matter if you are ALSO on title. As long as she is on title, the car is not stolen and she can take it where she likes.

However, the LOAN is all yours. You will have to pay it back or suffer the consequences to your credit history, get calls from collections, etc. Eventually, if the loan defaults, the bank will try to repossess the car. They will come to your house looking for it, ask if you know where it is, etc. You don't have the car, so in that sense it's not your problem. But it will still be a big hassle for you.

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This has happened to me and the police weren't interested. What they told me is that if you give someone the keys, the car isn't stolen. On the other hand, I've heard about Hertz getting customers arrested when the customer extended the rental and the paperwork didn't go through, so your mileage may vary.

Maybe you can get her to drive you to McDonalds or something, and throw a tracker under the seat and repo it when she's asleep?

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    The OP says he can't find his (ex) girlfriend so getting her to drive him to McDonalds would not seem to be possible. Jun 21 at 18:21
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    Roughly theft = taking without permission. Fraud = convincing someone through lies to hand it over voluntarily. Embezzlement - having something legally, but keeping it illegally (for example a bus driver taking your money legally but not handing it to the bus company). Yes, it looks like it is none of these. I think there are specific laws for rental cars.
    – gnasher729
    Jun 23 at 17:36
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    @gnasher729 the term you're looking for is "Theft by Conversion". It's when you had permission to use something for a specific time/purpose but continued to use or keep it beyond what was agreed. Jun 23 at 18:14

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