UPDATE, March 2022: The vast majority of automakers are no longer advertising their payment relief options. If you are in danger of missing a payment due to a job loss from the pandemic, the best thing to do is contact your vehicle's finance company. Explain your situation and you may be able to secure some form of assistance, whether it be a payment deferral, a partial payment option or a lease extension.
Car Payment Relief During Coronavirus
Links to resources and advice from our experts
Starting in 2020, automakers set up programs to allow borrowers to defer loan payments if they were financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, unsettled the stock market and cast a pall of doubt over businesses both large and small. The personal impacts of social distancing, isolation and uncertainty were equally as trying. Widespread business closures caused financial hardship for a number of Americans who found themselves unable to pay all of their bills.
Here at Edmunds, we figured that any worries we could lift from your mind would allow you to focus more energy on getting you and your family through the crisis. To that end, we put together a list of automakers and lenders offering borrowers avenues of relief. The list has dwindled, but keep reading for our best information as of this writing.
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Payment deferral programs
If you're leasing your car, extensions may be available from your automakers. We've written a thorough guide for what to do if your lease is ending during the coronavirus pandemic. Lessees should have a plan so that they don't risk penalties or an automatic contract extension that could cost them extra.
Stellantis, which encompasses Fiat, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram and Alfa Romeo, is encouraging customers to contact their loan servicer to discuss payment relief options. Stellantis customers may need to contact either Chrysler Capital or Ally Financial (discussed below).
Ford Credit still has a COVID-19 page, but it is unclear if the payment relief is still being offered. We recommend visiting its website to get assistance or reviewing the FAQs for payment assistance and lease-end options.
Visit Ford Credit
Maserati Capital's website no longer mentions payment relief. The high-end carmaker is asking affected owners to contact its help line to explore possible relief options for both purchasers and lessees.
Visit Maserati Capital
Mitsubishi's finance partner Ally Financial posted this message on its site in February 2021: "The deferral programs outlined in the news release below were offered as part of Ally's early response to the COVID-19 crisis. While these particular deferral programs have ended, we always encourage customers facing difficulties to contact us so we can discuss more flexible payment arrangements as needed."
Visit Ally Financial
Nissan and Infiniti's finance arm, NMAC, does mention that it has payment relief, but it is unclear when the page was last updated. As with Ford, Toyota and others, it's hard to say what relief exactly owners can expect or how much it may vary from person to person, but there's no reason not to reach out for help if you need it.
Visit Nissan's COVID-19 response page
Both Wells Fargo and Ally Financial service a lot of car loans, and both have hotlines available for consumers facing financial hardship. So even if you financed a used car, if you did so through your bank, there may be recourse. Assistance will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Both companies can also be contacted about existing credit card, personal loan, or other types of debt.
Visit Wells Fargo's COVID-19 information center
Visit Ally Financial's coronavirus response center
Having trouble making a payment? Talk to your lender
In hard times, a number of people tend to overlook their car payments in favor of more critical purchases. This is understandable, but it could harm your credit in the long run. Don't be afraid to call your lender. Others are in the same predicament, and lenders may be able to offer reduced payments or give you an extension. This communication is important to show that you are committed to paying the loan and keeping the account in good standing.
If you're leasing a car and the term of your lease is coming to an end, you may be able to get an extension on either a month-to-month basis or for a short fixed term. Call the company servicing your lease to find out what options may be available. If you feel as though you won't be driving the car much and want to turn it in, get in touch with the dealership to see if you can schedule a quick drop-off, handling most of the paperwork beforehand.
Should you use your coronavirus stimulus check on your car loan?
The answer here is a definite maybe. Given all the steps that automakers have taken to ease the financial burden of car loans, you should probably target your basic necessities first, including food, housing, utility and insurance bills. Are you paying interest on any credit cards? These rates tend to be particularly burdensome, so do yourself a favor and pay down that outstanding balance. Do you have an emergency fund for unexpected expenses? Consider adding your federal stimulus check to that fund if you don't immediately need the cash.
But if you've got all those bases covered, then, yes, using your coronavirus stimulus check — or Economic Impact Payment, as the IRS calls it — to reduce or eliminate your car loan could make a lot of sense. You'll get extra peace of mind from lessening your debt load, and all that future money that you would have paid in interest can stay in your pocket.
Loan deferment FAQs
Q: What is a loan deferment?
A: A loan deferment is an agreement between you and your lender that allows you to delay monthly loan payments for a specified period of time. The skipped month or months are then added at the end of the loan, effectively increasing the length of your loan. For example, if you have a 60-month loan and defer your payments for three months, you'll actually finish paying off your loan after 63 months. Keep in mind that interest typically continues accruing during the deferral period, so you will generally pay more in interest over the length of the loan.
Q: Does a car loan deferment hurt my credit?
A: Make sure your lender approves the loan deferment before you stop making payments. Deferment is not the same as delinquency, and your credit will not be affected so long as you and your lender are on the same page.
Q: How do I get a car loan deferment?
A: Getting your car loan deferred starts with contacting your lender and explaining your unique situation. Many lenders, especially the captive finance companies owned by the automakers, have enacted policies specifically targeting those affected by COVID-19-related job loss.
Q: How does a deferred car payment work?
A: A deferred car payment gives you temporary financial relief from making payments for a specified period of time. The missed payments are then added to the end of the loan, increasing the calendar length of your loan. Unless stated otherwise, you will accrue interest during the deferral period, so the overall amount of interest paid through the length of the loan will be higher.
Q: How long can you defer car loans?
A: The length of time you can defer car loans depends on your specific situation and your lender's deferment policies. Some automakers' financial arms are allowing for deferred payments for up to 30 days, while some offer up to 120 days. Some also require proof of job loss, such as unemployment insurance documentation.
Other consumer resources
How to reduce the risk of coronavirus in your vehicle: Whether in your personal car, a ride share, or even on public transit, we lay out how to minimize your risk of infection.