I found out 6 years after I thought I co-signed for a car that I was actually the primary. The notes were paid at first, my daughter ended up doing a voluntary repo. What can I do?

  • 25
    Another lesson in why co-signing should never be done. Gift them couple month's payment, and if they still can't afford it, they can't afford it.
    – Nelson
    Nov 9, 2023 at 7:11
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    How did this come as a surprise? I haven't ever co-signed or had a co-signer, but I assume the section of the contract where you signed would be clear about your role. All other contracts I've signed had clear labeling about each party's role.
    – Barmar
    Nov 9, 2023 at 14:59
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    @Barmar: Two common ways it could come as a surprise: (1) OP was clear about the roles at the time of signing, but then didn’t think about it for several years (because all necessary actions were being handled by the daughter), and so had forgotten/misremembered the details; (2) OP was careless about it at the time, perhaps due to mental health issues, external stress, addiction, etc. Obviously these are all things one should try to avoid in financial matters, but most people go through them at least occasionally — we’re human beings not robots. Nov 9, 2023 at 15:15
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    @Barmar and unethical car salespeople who swap primary and secondary borrowers on the paperwork so the sale will go through, but lie about it to the buyers.
    – stannius
    Nov 9, 2023 at 16:48
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    [[1]] It might be better to include the concern , rather than the blanket "What can I do" ... for what ? to get the car back ? to get back at your Daughter for tricking you ? for getting back your share of the Money ? for ?? I assume (going by the answers) that the concern is "credit rating" taking a hit. [[2]] I am curious how a Primary need not be involved in "voluntary repo" when Primary is the "owner" ? Surely , a co-signer can not take a car to go through the voluntary repo & the Primary has to be aware & agree to the voluntary repo ?
    – Prem
    Nov 10, 2023 at 10:33

2 Answers 2


I found out 6 years after I thought I co-signed for a car that I was the primary.

This doesn't make a difference. If payments are missed then everybody on the loan documents will get dinged.

The notes were paid at first, my daughter ended up doing a voluntary repo. What can I do

After the car has been repossessed, the damage has already been done.

  • 3
    I would think that if OP was primary, then the bank should have given then a chance to pay it off before agreeing to a repo. Nov 11, 2023 at 19:05

Reminder: "co" means "with". Not behind, not endorsing, not backup; you are as much a signatory to the loan as the "primary" borrower.

Primary and co-signer are equally on the hook. Both your credit ratings get dinged because you both failed to meet your obligations. "Voluntary" repossession is still repossession.

See many past answers about cosigning. Unless you are completely willing to make payments if the other person can't or won't, do not cosign. You are explicitly underwriting their finances with your own.

And if you decide to do it anyway, make sure the bank will send you copies of any statements or communications it sends to the primary. You want to know about any problems before they get out of control, even if your friend is embarrassed, or sure they can recover, and doesn't want to talk about it.

  • 19
    To emphasize that last bit — unfortunately, your credit is being dinged not because of some technicality, but correctly. By co-signing, you told the lender "I am guaranteeing you'll get your money even though I'm not the primary." The lender didn't get their money, which means from their perspective, you failed to make good on your guarantee. The fact that it's due to somebody else's action doesn't matter, because as cosigner you explicitly agreed that it doesn't matter. Your guarantee is now worth less than it did before, and the credit score reflects that.
    – yshavit
    Nov 9, 2023 at 23:04
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    @yshavit: Could a lender ding someone's credit without first offering that person a chance to repay any monies owed? If Alex and Bob are separately recognized as parties to a purchase loan, and Alex offers to return purchased merchandise which is worth slightly less than the loan amount and the lender agrees, can the lender ding Bob without first offering Bob a chance to pay any difference between the outstanding loan amount and the value of the returned property?
    – supercat
    Nov 9, 2023 at 23:37
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    @keshlam: which really reinforces the message to never co-sign for anything, ever. Because it puts your finances at the mercy of someone else, and not just their deliberate actions or unforeseen circumstances, but also their mistakes and oversights. Nov 10, 2023 at 11:14
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    If that's what happened, one hopes they wouldn't have downgraded either party's credit record and there's nothing to worry about.
    – keshlam
    Nov 10, 2023 at 19:54
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    And what they really should have done is sold the car and paid off the loan with the proceeds rather than "voluntarily repo". The former is a responsible choice. The latter is a failure to meet obligations.
    – keshlam
    Nov 11, 2023 at 3:53

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