As anyone who’s had to deal with a debt collection agency knows, it can be stressful trying to manage your debts. What starts with a missed payment can soon escalate to more serious matters. By the time a debt collection letter comes through, things can seem even more overwhelming. However, people often ask whether a debt collector can take your car. We take a look at this question, the ins and outs of debt collectors vs bailiffs, and how you can keep hold of your vehicle. 

Can a debt collector take my car? 

The short answer to this is no, at least not straight away, and not without your consent. A debt collection agency rarely has any additional powers compared to your original creditor. So, although they can come to your house and ask you to repay your debts, they can’t really enforce very much to begin with. 

Unlike a bailiff, debt collection agencies cannot seize your property to cover the cost of a debt. As we’ll see, this is an important distinction. With a debt collection agency, they can continue trying to persuade you to pay, and they may eventually be able to force legal action against you. 

If a debt collection agency or creditor takes legal action against you for your debt, you might end up with a County Court Judgement (CCJ). This is essentially a court order demanding you pay what you owe. If you continue to ignore the matter, an enforcement agent (bailiff) could be sent to your house. This is where things get more complicated. 

Don’t worry, here’s what to do

You could get rid of debt collectors by writing off your debt. I’ve put together a 4 question debt calculator which will tell you if you’re eligible:

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This 4 question debt calculator will tell you if you’re eligible.

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How about a bailiff? 

An enforcement agent or bailiff can take your vehicle to cover the cost of your debt. However, there are certain requirements, rules, and regulations that apply to this. Below, we’ve outlined some of the main points that you need to know about the process: 

  • A bailiff is allowed to take your vehicle, providing they have the correct documents and authorisation. 
  • They can take it from your home, where you work, or from a public highway. 
  • However, they can’t take it from private land unless they have a warrant that details that exact location. 
  • When taking a vehicle, they have to confirm it belongs to you by checking with the DVLA. 
  • They cannot take a vehicle that’s under a hire purchase agreement. 
  • They can take a vehicle that is jointly in your name. 
  • If you don’t hand over the keys, they can clamp the vehicle to recover at a later date. 
  • If they are authorised to take the car, they have to give you two hours’ notice to come up with a repayment plan.
  • When taking your car, they must give you a full inventory and documentation of what they’ve taken. 

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Is all this information starting to feel overwhelming? Don’t panic! I’ve put together a 4 question debt calculator so you can quickly and easily find the best solution for you. Answer the four questions now.

Debt collectors vs bailiffs 

As we’ve seen, there are some fairly significant differences between these two terms. However, people have a habit of using them interchangeably. As such, it’s worth knowing the difference between the two, particularly if you’re wondering whether a debt collector can take your car. 

Debt collectors 

A debt collector is someone working on behalf of a debt collection agency. They’re sometimes known as field agents or doorstep collectors. Although it sounds like a fairly intimidating term, the powers that they have are actually quite limited. 

If you default on a loan or have outstanding payments due, the creditor may hire a debt collector to recover the money. Alternatively, they might sell the debt on to one of these companies. From here, the debt collector will try to recover the money. 

They can visit your home to settle the debt. However, it’s very unlikely that they will do so. Once they pay you a visit, they have no legal powers to take your possessions or force you to pay. 


Technically, bailiffs are now known as enforcement agents. However, many people still use the term bailiff. Unlike a debt collector, enforcement agents do have legal powers to collect a debt. Often, they’ll have court-mandated powers to collect things like council tax, parking fines, and similar. 

When they visit your property, they have the power to take certain items to match the cost of what you owe. Your car is part of their remit, providing that it’s at least partly in your name and not a hire purchase vehicle. 

How to stop a bailiff taking your car

There are several instances when a bailiff cannot seize your car or other vehicle. It’s worth knowing these circumstances, as it could mean that you can stop them from taking your car. Here’s what you need to know. They cannot take it if: 

  • It has a Blue Badge, is needed for your job and worth less than £1,350, or is also your home (such as a campervan). 
  • It’s a hire purchase, contract plan, or conditional sale vehicle. If you’re unsure as to whether this applies, you can check the HPI check website
  • It isn’t parked at your home, place of business, or on a public road or car park. 

So, with that in mind, there are a few things that you can try: 

  • Move your vehicle. To stop a bailiff from seizing or clamping your vehicle, you can move it from your driveway. A locked garage or a friend/family member’s driveway is off-limits. 
  • Arrange a payment. If the bailiff comes to take your car, you can agree to pay what you owe within two hours of them issuing the demand. 
  • Agree to a controlled goods agreement. This type of agreement is essentially a regular payment that settles your debt. 

If you do have your vehicle clamped, you shouldn’t try and remove the device or move your vehicle. It is illegal to do so. Once your vehicle has been taking, there is still time for you to reclaim it before they sell it. However, you’ll usually have to agree to a payment if this is the case. 

If you think that a bailiff has broken the rules by clamping or seizing your car, you can contact Citizens Advice for more information and assistance. 

About the author

Scott Nelson

Scott Nelson is a financial services expert, with over 10 years’ experience in the industry, including 6 years in FCA regulated companies. Read more
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