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What is a Lien Release on a Car?

Sarah Edwards | October 28, 2023

Summary: When you purchase a car with a loan, the lender usually places a lien on your vehicle. You won’t obtain a clear title until they release the lien. If you find yourself struggling with car debt, SoloSettle can help you settle the debt once and for all and avoid going to court.

When you buy a vehicle, you’ll likely take out a loan. Cars typically cost thousands of dollars, and most people don’t have enough savings to buy a vehicle outright. Instead, they turn to lenders who finance their purchases. In exchange, they’ll make monthly payments, including interest, for the lender’s services.

People who still owe money on their vehicles won’t have a clear title. They can’t sell the car to someone else unless they satisfy the remaining loan balance or the buyer agrees to assume the loan.

Once the individual pays off their vehicle, they’ll have full ownership. When a lender removes a lien from a paid-off car, it’s known as a lien release.

If you’ve been sued for a car loan debt, you can avoid going to court when you settle the debt.

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Why there is a lien on your car

You’ll have a lien on your vehicle if you buy it with the help of automobile financing. The lien is typically automatic. When you receive the car’s title, it will include the name of your financing company as a co-owner of the vehicle.

The lien acts as a form of protection for the lender. Since vehicle loans typically run into tens of thousands of dollars, lenders want to ensure you won’t take out the loan and run off with the vehicle without making a payment. A lien gives them the right to seize the car if you stop your monthly payments.

Sometimes, people use credit cards to pay for a vehicle. This is rare, but occasionally, consumers think they’ll save money by using a credit card to buy a car. In some cases, they can — especially if they take advantage of a no-interest financing opportunity and pay off the vehicle before the special financing ends.

However, many dealerships won’t allow you to buy a car with a credit card or will limit the amount you can spend to a certain threshold.

If you buy a car with your credit card, the bank won’t have an automatic lien on the vehicle. However, they can sue you to obtain one if you don’t keep up with your minimum payments.

Did your car loan company sue you for debt? Respond to their lawsuit with a Debt Answer.

How to get rid of a car lien

The primary way to obtain a lien release on a car is to pay off your outstanding loan. If you stick with your monthly payment plan, you’ll eventually pay off the vehicle. Following your last payment, your lender should release the lien and give you a clear title. After that, the car is entirely yours. You can sell it, trade it, or keep it until the tires fall off.

Occasionally, creditors seek to put a lien on your vehicle for other debts, like a credit card. If you are the sole owner of your car, a creditor can seek a judgment against you and attempt to put a lien on your vehicle.

Let’s consider an example.

Example: Joan owns a 2011 Toyota Corolla, which she’s paid off. She also has a credit card with DYI Financial, which she stopped making payments on. Currently, her outstanding balance with DYI Financial is $5K. DYI Financial sends her account to collections. Joan ignores the numerous letters and phone calls. One day, she receives a Complaint notifying her of DYI Financial’s debt lawsuit against her. Joan doesn’t respond and doesn’t show up for court. The judge awards DYI Financial a judgment against Joan, and they use it to place a lien on Joan’s Toyota. The lien allows them to seize Joan’s car and sell it via auction. DYI Financial hires a towing company to take Joan’s car to the auction. She’s given a few days to repay the debt before DYI Financial sells her Toyota. Joan repays the $5K debt to DYI Financial, and they return her car.


Releasing a car lien requires you to pay a debt

All car liens occur due to debt. Whether your vehicle financing company includes a lien on your loan or a creditor obtains one from a judgment, you must pay the obligation to release the lien. Once you repay the debt, you’ll receive a clear title for the car.

Is a creditor trying to put a lien on your car with a judgment? Settle the dispute with the help of SoloSettle.

Debt settlement is a good way to save money and avoid going to court. If you’re being sued over a car debt, follow these three steps to settle your debt:

  1. Respond to the lawsuit with a written Answer. Be sure to respond to the lawsuit before your state’s deadline. Even if you plan to settle the debt before the court date, responding will prevent a loss by default judgment. If you don’t respond, the party suing you can request a default judgment at any time, which would give them the right to garnish your wages and seize your property. For this reason, you should respond to the lawsuit ASAP before moving on with the debt settlement process.

  2. Send an offer to start negotiations. You’ll want to start with a lower offer than you can actually afford, giving yourself room to negotiate. Chances are you’ll go through several rounds of negotiations before you reach a settlement. On average, consumers can settle their debts for 50% of the original debt amount, so it’s possible to save hundreds, even thousands, with debt settlement.

  3. Get the settlement agreement in writing. It’s important to get everything in writing. This will help you avoid further legal issues. Be sure both parties sign the agreement, which should include the settlement amount and the stipulation that the lawsuit will be dismissed upon payment of the settlement.

SoloSettle can help you with each of these steps and more. To learn more about how to settle your debt, check out this video:

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