Mom, I bought a car. Can you pay for it?

Tara Baukus MelloDear Driving for Dollars,
My 18-year-old son, a college freshman, recently purchased a car. It was quite spontaneous, and neither I nor his dad knew he was doing it. It's been a few weeks, and he realizes now that he cannot afford to make the payments. We cannot afford to make the payments for him. How can he get rid of this car?
-- Laurie

Dear Laurie,
It sounds like he purchased the car entirely on his own, meaning no one else's name appears on the car loan, the title or any of the paperwork. If that's the case, the car and the car loan are legally just his responsibility, and you have no legal responsibility to help him out. In most states, there is no "cooling off" period for a car purchase, so it's likely that you have no legal leg to stand on to insist the car be taken back, since he is technically an adult.

First, do a little legwork to find out what the car is worth -- at a dealership and in a private-party sale -- and compare it to what he owes. Hopefully, the gap is minimal. Next, contact the manager of the dealership to see if you can get him to take pity on your son's bad decision and allow him to return the car.

Even if you can negotiate the car being returned plus a small payment to compensate for the depreciation, it's likely this will be the cheapest way out of the situation. If the dealer won't take it back under any circumstances, consider selling the car privately and paying off the car loan. Again, it's likely your son will be on the hook for some cash due to depreciation, but if you or someone you know can give him a loan to cover the difference, it will be better than him being saddled with a high monthly car payment or wrecking what little credit he has through late payments.

Get more news, money-saving tips and expert advice by signing up for a free Bankrate newsletter.

Ask the adviser

If you have a car question, email it to us at Driving for Dollars. Read more Driving for Dollars columns and Bankrate auto stories. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.

Bankrate's content, including the guidance of its advice-and-expert columns and this website, is intended only to assist you with financial decisions. The content is broad in scope and does not consider your personal financial situation. Bankrate recommends that you seek the advice of advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances before making any final decisions or implementing any financial strategy. Please remember that your use of this website is governed by Bankrate's Terms of Use.



More From Bankrate.com
Search