If you miss car payments, the company that loaned you the money to purchase the car can likely take back your car in what is called “repossession.” The right to take back your car for nonpayment usually comes from the terms of the signed loan paperwork when you buy your car. Usually, a few missed payments and the loan company will start calling you and sending you warning letters. Warning calls and letters will ultimately lead to repossession. Once the loan company repossesses, it can then sell your car at an auction and apply that money to pay down the amount that you still owe. This can also happen with car title loans (e.g., where you receive a loan and agree to give the loan company your car title as security and part of your promise to pay back the loan. This is called a security interest). In situations where the car is part of your promise to pay back a loan, the answer is “yes”: you could lose your car if you don’t make your car payments. Bankruptcy can immediately stop this process.
If you haven’t paid other bills, like a credit card or a payday loan, you could still lose your car, but the situation is a bit different and the company must take a few extra steps. For example, the company must first sue you to get a judgment in court. With a judgment in hand, the company can then apply to the court to have the sheriff take your car and sell it. This process is similar to repossession and is called a writ of attachment. The company would then use the money from the sale of your car as payment down on the amount that you owe. Bankruptcy can immediately stop this process too.