With the New Year comes deals on new cars! If you recently purchased or leased a new vehicle and have begun to experience problems, you are most likely having those issues repaired under the manufacturer’s warranty. If the problems persist, you may have to seek satisfaction under the Georgia Lemon Law.
What is the Georgia Lemon Law?
The Georgia Lemon Law protects consumers whose new cars, trucks, or motorhomes have defects. A problem is a defect if it “substantially impairs use, value, or safety of the vehicle to the consumer” or “renders the vehicle nonconforming to a warranty.” The Lemon Law also covers a serious safety defect, which is “a life-threatening defect or a malfunction that impedes the consumer’s ability to control or operate the motor vehicle for ordinary use or reasonable intended purposes or creates a risk of fire or explosion.”
If the defect cannot be repaired after a reasonable number of attempts, then the manufacturer must repurchase or replace the vehicle.
The law covers the following if purchased or leased in Georgia on or after January 1, 2009:
- New cars
- New trucks (under 12,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating)
- New motorhomes or RVs
The Georgia Lemon Law is unique, because it also covers new vehicles that were purchased or leased in another state on or after January 1, 2009, and were then registered in Georgia.
It does NOT cover:
- Used cars, trucks, or motorhomes
- Vehicles with defects caused by abuse, neglect, or unauthorized modification or alteration of the new motor vehicle.
How long am I protected for?
The rights period for the Georgia Lemon Law term is two years after the date of the original delivery of the new motor vehicle to you or 24,000 miles of operation after delivery to you, whichever comes first. You must complete your repair attempts during the rights period; however, the final repair attempt is the only repair attempt that can take place after the Lemon Law rights period expires.
- Need to calculate your Lemon Law rights period? My e-book, Lemon-Aid for Georgia Consumers: Your Guide to the Georgia Lemon Law, contains calculation pages for you to use. You can download it here.
What should I do if I think my new car is a lemon?
The Georgia Lemon Law gives the manufacturer, its agent, or an authorized dealership a chance to repair the vehicle. Those chances are called “reasonable repair attempts.” You should move on to the next step in the process, if:
- repairs are attempted 3 times for the same defect, and the problem continues; or
- repair is attempted 1 time for the same “serious safety defect”, and the problem continues; or
- repair attempts take a total of 30 days for the same defect or different defects.
Remember, the repair attempts MUST take place during the Lemon Law rights period.
- The dealership is required to give you a repair invoice after every repair attempt, even if no work is done. Review each invoice to make sure dates, repairs, and odometer readings are correct.
- Keep records of repair and towing receipts.
- Save voicemail messages from dealerships and the manufacturer.
What is the “final repair attempt”?
- If the defect continues after 3 chances to repair the same defect, or one chance to repair a serious safety defect, then you must give the manufacturer (not the dealership) a final opportunity to repair the vehicle. The manufacturer has 7 business days from the date it receives the notice of final opportunity to repair to designate a repair facility. The manufacturer can chose not to use this final opportunity. If the defect has not been repaired, or has been repaired and continues, you have the right to a repurchase or replacement.
- There is no “final repair attempt” required if your new vehicle has been out of service for repair for 30 days or more.
- You must send the final repair attempt notice by overnight mail or certified mail with a return receipt. Keep your mailing receipts.
- Send the notice to the address in the manufacturer’s warranty booklet. Do not send it to the dealership.
- Send a copy of the final repair attempt notice to the Georgia Department of Law.
Repurchase or replacement?
If the manufacturer didn’t fix the vehicle at the final repair attempt, or if your vehicle has been out of service for repairs for 30 days or more, you can request that the manufacturer repurchase (buy back) or replace your vehicle. Similar to the method outlined for you to send the final repair attempt notice, the Repurchase or Replacement Request must be sent to the manufacturer by certified mail or overnight mail.
The manufacturer must respond to your demand for repurchase or replacement within 20 days of the date it receives your request. If you select a repurchase, then you will receive a refund of the purchase price of the vehicle. Depending on if you purchased or leased your vehicle, you may also receive a refund for sales tax, GAP insurance, towing costs, and repair fees. Your repurchase amount can be reduced by a “reasonable offset for use,” which is the amount credited to the manufacturer for your use of the vehicle during the time period between when you purchased or leased the vehicle and the first date you took it in for repair of a defect.
If you select a replacement, then you are entitled to a vehicle that is identical or at least equivalent to your vehicle. You are not responsible for paying an offset for use. For a replacement, the manufacturer is responsible for any charges you might incur as a result of the replacement transaction, such as the cost of sales tax or title ad valorem tax.
- Need to calculate your “reasonable offset for use”? My e-book, Lemon-Aid for Georgia Consumers: Your Guide to the Georgia Lemon Law, contains calculation pages for you to use. You can download it here.
What can I do if the manufacturer doesn’t give me a replacement or repurchase my vehicle?
If the manufacturer does not replace or repurchase your vehicle, you may seek redress through state-operated arbitration. Currently, there is no manufacturer who has a certified dispute mechanism in Georgia, so you can go to arbitration without going through the manufacturer’s mediation or arbitration mechanism first. Check here to see if your manufacturer has a certified mechanism in Georgia.
For information on your rights under the Georgia Lemon Law, download Lemon-Aid for Georgia Consumers: Your Guide to the Georgia Lemon Law. You can also call The Zeigler Firm at 770-580-9013 to set up a consultation.