credit

How long will car repo hurt my credit?

Don TaylorDear Dr. Don,
When my former spouse had a vehicle repossessed in January 2009, my credit score fell sharply from 820 to 577. Unfortunately, I co-signed the loan agreement while married. One reporting agency says it will be removed from my credit history a few months from now. Aside from the car incident, I have a good credit history. Generally, how long does it take for a credit score to return to normal or better? Is there any way to help boost my credit rating?

Thanks,
-- Tish Turnabout

Car being lifted onto tow truck bed

Dear Tish,
Time does heal most wounds when it comes to your credit report. For example, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition remains for 10 years and then is removed. Almost all other negative information goes away after seven years.

I reached out to an official with one reporting agency, and here's what he told me.

"Assuming the repossession is truly the only negative factor in her report, her scores should increase when they are calculated after it is deleted."

He went on to say, "In most cases, the length of time it takes for scores to recover is dependent on the severity of the issues in the credit history. The more serious the problems, the longer it will take to recover. A single late payment might take a few months, but bankruptcy could take a decade. The further in the past a negative issue occurred, the less impact it will have on credit scores."

The seven-year time frame is based on the start of the credit problem, which, in your case, was nonpayment of the car loan. That is quite separate from the actual repossession of the car. In the meantime, make sure all of your other accounts are current to improve your credit elsewhere.

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