Paid-off car gets repossessed?

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PHOENIX -- Gina Brooks admits some of her car payments were a little late, but she always caught up and eventually paid off her car in full. At least, she thought she paid it off in full.

"It gives me freedom, it's mine, it's my truck," she said.

Brooks loves her 2002 Nissan Xterra.

"I'm a single woman and it gives me the sense that I can go wherever I want, whenever I want," she said.

But Brooks does admit that keeping up with the payments the past seven years has been a struggle.

"I was afraid I was going to lose it at times, but did everything I could to make it," Brooks said.

And she was ecstatic to finally be paying it off.

"I struggled to make the last few payments and I was happy," she said. "That's what I looked forward to after seven years, I was done."

So when Brooks sent in her final payment she thought all her struggles were over.

"I was waiting for the title to come in the mail," she said. "I was really excited, looking forward to it after all those years. It was an expensive piece of paper!"

But instead of the title arriving at Brooks' house, a repo company showed up instead.

"I go to work the next day and my truck's gone!" she said. "There's nothing like that feeling."

Brooks called Americredit, the loan company she had been paying the past seven years.

"They were telling me I still owed them money after making all my payments, but they wouldn't tell me why," she said.

It turns out Americredit was demanding nearly $5,000 more before they would release her car. Brooks says she reluctantly paid the money and got her truck back, but she never knew why she had to come up with thousands of dollars more in the first place.

"You struggle to get through and people still kick you when you're down," Brooks said.

3 On Your Side contacted Americredit, which told us they couldn't discuss the matter with us due to privacy issues. But they did agree to contact Brooks. They told her the $5,000 was for penalties and late fees on the months she fell behind on her payment. Brooks says five grand in late fees is ridiculous and extreme, but she's certainly glad to have her Nissan back.

"I'm going to take my truck and travel somewhere!" she said.

Brooks financed her car for seven years. Consumer advocates warn folks to avoid financing a vehicle that long because if you have to finance seven years to afford the monthly payment, then the car is probably out of your price range anyway.