Can a car dealership disable a vehicle without the customer knowing of such device?

I have never been late on my car payments but am recently having some financial issues that have made me 1 week behind on all my financial obligations. I called my used car dealership and asked if I can make my payment 1 week late. They didn’t want to work with me at all and that I needed to come up with the money. I was surprised since I have always made my payments on time and I make payments every 2 weeks. So today I get in my car for work and my car won’t turn on. It’s been disabled and I had no idea of such device.

Asked on October 31, 2011 under General Practice, Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

No, the dealership may NOT disable your car unless you were aware of such an option and had agreed to allow them to do so, at the time you bought the car. Otherwise, they have both violated the contract of sale (since they are doing something they have no contractual right to do) and have also committed a tort or wrong (possibly several torts or wrongs, depending on the circumstances: they are interferring with your property and with your own movement). If there is no contractual right to do this in the contract of sale or financing agreement, you may be able to go to court for an order forcing them to not do this and also possibly seeking compensation.

You should check the contract of sale and financing agreement, to see whether or not they do contain any terms authorizing this; if they do, then in executing the agreement(s), you may have agreed to this.

Note that a lender or dealers is under no obligation to work with a borrower or car buyer. If you are late on payments, even if they can't disable your vehicle, they could still take other appropriate action, including possibly suing you and/or repossessing the car.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.