Can a Debt Collector Seize My Car?

By: Robert J. Nahoum

A man in suit and tie with his arms crossed.


You’ve been sued for an old debt and the debt collector has been awarded a judgment.  You don’t have the money to pay off the judgment and the only thing of value you own is your car.

You’re reasonably concerned that your only asset of any value is in jeopardy and are asking can a debt collector seize my car to satisfy a debt collection judgment?


In New York, as in most states, there is a laundry list of property exempt from judgment enforcement and thus beyond the reach of debt collectors.  Included in the list of exempt property is your car if the equity is less than $4,000.  Cars that have been equipped for use by people with disabilities are exempt up to $10,000.

In other words, if you still owe money on your car and make payments to the bank, the car is likely to be completely exempt from levy.  For example, if your car is worth $10,000 but you still owe $8,000 you only have $2,000 in equity (less than $4,000) and so your car would be completely exempt levy.

Similarly, if your car is worth less than $4,000, by definition you have less than $4,000 in equity and so the car is completely exempt levy.

If your car is leased, you don’t own it – the bank does. For this reason, if your car is leased it is completely exempt from levy.


As a practical matter, debt collectors seldom try to levy cars in an effort to enforce a debt collection judgment.  Nevertheless, if a debt collector does try to levy your car, see whether you fall within the applicable exemption.  If you do, show the math to the debt collector.

If a debt collector persists in going after your exempt car, take a stand and fight back.  Such conduct might be a violation of Federal debt collection laws known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA for short).  If you’ve been the victim of an FDCPA violation, you can sue the debt collector for statutory damages up to $1,000.00, actual damages (like pain and suffering) and the debt collector may have to pay for your attorney.

If you need help settling or defending a debt collection law suit, filing for bankruptcy, stopping harassing debt collectors or suing a debt collector, contact us today to see what we can do for you.  With office located in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Rockland County, the Law Offices of Robert J. Nahoum defends consumers in debt collection cases throughout the Tristate area including New Jersey.

The Law Offices of Robert J. Nahoum, P.C
(845) 232-0202