I was asked to co-sign financing for a car. What am I being asked to do and what does this mean for me?

If you co-sign a loan, you are legally obligated to repay the loan in full. Co-signing a loan does not mean serving as a character reference for someone else. When you co-sign, you promise to pay the loan yourself. It means that you risk having to repay any missed payments immediately. If the borrower defaults on the loan, the creditor can use the same collection methods against you that can be used against the borrower such as demanding that you repay the entire loan yourself, suing you, and garnishing your wages or bank accounts after a judgment. Your credit score(s) may be impacted by any late payments or defaults.

Co-signing an auto loan does not mean you have any right to the vehicle, it just means that you have agreed to become obligated to repay the amount of the loan. So make sure you can afford to pay this debt if the borrower cannot.

As co-signer, you should receive a separate notice by the lender prior to signing the agreement. The notice will contain the following information:

  • You are being asked to guarantee this debt. Think carefully before you do. If the borrower doesn’t pay the debt, you will have to. Be sure you can afford to pay if you have to, and that you want to accept this responsibility.
  • You may have to pay up to the full amount of the debt if the borrower does not pay. You may also have to pay late fees or collection costs, which increase this amount.
  • The creditor can collect this debt from you without first trying to collect from the borrower. The creditor can use the same collection methods against you that can be used against the borrower, such as suing you, garnishing your wages, etc. If this debt is ever in default, that fact may become a part of your credit record.

Co-signing a loan may also affect your ability to obtain loans for yourself because you have taken on the obligation to pay the loan. Lenders ask for a co-signer when they do not want to take on the full risk of loaning money to that particular borrower. Read the terms of the loan and consider carefully whether you wish to take the risk of co-signing.

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