If you find yourself in a financial situation that puts you at risk for not paying your car loan on time, fast action is necessary to make sure you protect your credit rating. Failure to pay your car payment as agreed on can result in fees, penalties, late-pay credit marks and even repossession. If you’re suddenly without wheels, that can impact your money-earning ability, which can make your financial troubles snowball.

Figure Out Your Budget

If you're having a hard time paying your car loan, you may have overextended yourself financially. Make a budget if you don't already have one or examine the one you have in place to see where your finances have gone off track. Maybe your living expenses increased, your income decreased or you’ve hit a couple financial bumps with unexpected expenses that put you behind. Figuring out where you stand with your income and your bills will help you make the smartest prioritization choices and show you where to cut other expenses.

Temporary Situation

If you're behind on your car payment because of a temporary layoff, surprise bills or another short-term issue, contact your auto loan-servicing company and explain your circumstances. Some creditors will work with you if they understand what your situation is, especially if you were injured or lost your job. You may be allowed to skip or defer a payment for a month or two until you get your finances back together.

Long-Term Problem

If your financial circumstances don't look to be improving anytime soon, weigh your financial options as they relate to your car. Depending on how much money you owe on the loan and whether you’re “upside down” on your financing, you may be able to get rid of the car. Consider downsizing to a lower-cost vehicle, selling the car and taking public transportation, or negotiating the return of a leased vehicle. Whatever decision you make, stay in contact with the auto lender to ensure the car isn’t repossessed while you're trying to figure out the best approach to take.

Outside Sources

Consider asking a family member or trusted friend to temporarily take over car payments for you. Also consider utilizing a personal line of credit to make payments on a temporary basis or shop around for a new auto loan. You may be able to secure financing with a more favorable interest rate that will help lower your payments into a financially manageable price range. Use caution when borrowing money to pay off other borrowed money, as you could end up paying significantly more in the long run or dig yourself an even deeper financial hole.