Seller sold me a vehicle that would not pass emissions; what are my rights?

June 4, 2014 22:09 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I purchased a vehicle from a private seller that had currently not passed emissions testing. When I asked the seller at the point of sale about the vehicle passing emissions, he stated that the car was in passing order. When the vehicle subsequently failed the emissions test, I contacted the seller about returning my money or paying for the repairs needed to pass emissions, but he refused. I don't know if I have rights in the state of Georgia concerning this, and have no idea who to get in touch with or how to file a complaint or possibly get my money back.

Consumer Ed Says:

In Georgia, all sellers of gas-powered cars and light-duty trucks (those with a gross vehicle weight rating or GVWR of 8,500 pounds or less) must sell a vehicle with a current, valid, passing emissions inspection if the seller is located in one of the 13 counties comprising the Atlanta metro area -- Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Paulding or Rockdale -- and if the vehicle will be registered in that 13-county region.

If the seller is not located in one of these metro-Atlanta counties, then the vehicle being sold is not required to have an emissions certificate. This is not usually a problem, however, since an emissions certificate is not required in order to register your vehicle outside of metro-Atlanta.

However, if the seller and the vehicle registration location are in one of the 13 metro-Atlanta counties specified above, it is the seller's responsibility to provide evidence of a passing emissions inspection. The unexpired Certificate of Emissions Inspection should be displayed on the vehicle at the time of sale. If the seller is required to sell the vehicle with an emissions inspection but fails to display a valid, unexpired certificate at the time of sale, the seller may be guilty of a misdemeanor and can be fined $100.00 for the first offense, $500.00 for the second offense, and $1,000.00 for each subsequent offense.

There are a few exceptions (see below), but this law applies regardless of whether the seller is a private party, dealership or auctioneer. Also, cars sold "as is" are not exempt-they too must be sold with a current, valid, passing emissions inspection if the seller is located in one of the 13 metro Atlanta counties indicated above.

However, the seller is not required to provide the buyer with a copy of the Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR), which is generated during the inspection and gets reported electronically to Georgia tag offices. So before purchasing a vehicle, potential buyers should always look for the Certificate of Emissions Inspection on the vehicle and check the vehicle's VIR before purchasing. Simply ask the seller for it or, if you know the vehicle identification number (VIN), you can download a copy of a vehicle's most recent VIR for free on the Georgia Clean Air Force (GCAF) website by visiting:

If you bought a vehicle in metro-Atlanta that does not have a current passing emissions inspection, you have several options:



Exceptions & Exemptions 

There are a few exceptions and exemptions to this law. An emissions inspection is not required if:  


  • The vehicle runs only on alternate fuel or diesel;
  • The vehicle has a GVWR over 8,500 pounds;
  • The vehicle is from the three most recent model years (for example, in 2014 that means vehicles of model years 2012, 2013, or 2014);
  • The vehicle is 25 model years old or older; or
  • The vehicle was sold as "parts only" or "salvage" and the title was appropriately identified as such with the Department of Revenue, Motor Vehicle Division.


Senior Exemption: If  you are a senior citizen selling your vehicle you may qualify for an exemption if you are at least 65 years old, your vehicle is 10 model years old or older, you do not drive the vehicle over 5,000 miles per year, the vehicle's odometer is in working condition, and you are the primary registered vehicle owner. However, you must apply for a Senior Exemption. You can print and mail in the completed form or submit it online by visiting  

Non-Conforming Status: Gray market vehicles, kit cars, hot rods, and vehicles for which the owner is unable to obtain parts (parts are no longer manufactured) to repair the vehicle so it can pass the emissions inspection may qualify for an exception. Owners of these types of vehicles would have to apply for Non-Conforming Status and each request is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. For more information on Non-Conforming Status and to apply online, visit:

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Make sure you receive these documents when you buy a car

March 20, 2014 20:53 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

When you buy a car, what documents is the dealer required to give you?

Consumer Ed Says:

When you buy a new vehicle, the dealer must provide you with several documents. These include standard documents, such as the sales contract (which is often referred to as the "Buyer's Order" or "Bill of Sale").  Depending on your particular circumstances, there may be additional documents the dealer must provide.  For example, if you finance the vehicle through the dealership, you should receive a Retail Installment Contract, and if you agree to a service package, the dealer should give you a copy of the signed Service Contract.  Below is information on the more common documents you should expect to receive when you buy a new vehicle:

  • Buyer's Order or Bill of Sale: This is the basic sales contract. The seller should provide you with a copy of the completed and signed contract at the time you purchase the car.  This is very important, because it is required in order to register your vehicle and to apply for a license plate. You should ensure that it reflects the terms you negotiated with the seller.  If the seller made a verbal promise during the negotiations, make sure you get it added in writing before signing anything!
  • Finance Agreement or Retail Installment Contract: If you finance your vehicle through a dealership, Georgia law requires that the agreement be in writing in what is typically called a "Retail Installment Contract".  The seller must give the buyer a completed copy of this contract at the time the buyer signs it. Make sure that it contains no unfilled blanks before signing.
  • Odometer Mileage Disclosure Form: A  written mileage disclosure statement is required whenever a vehicle is bought or sold, or at the end of a lease.  The disclosure statement includes the buyer and seller's information, basic vehicle information, and the odometer reading of the vehicle at the time of sale.  This requirement applies to individual sellers as well as dealers.
  • Lemon Law Rights Statement: Under Georgia law, a dealer must give the buyer a written Statement of Consumer Rights that explains the Georgia Lemon Law Act at the time of purchase or lease of any new motor vehicle.  The law is very specific: the Statement must be printed in 11-point type, Arial font, on the front side of a sheet of standard, letter-sized paper that is yellow in color.  The consumer must sign and date the Statement, and the dealer's representative must print his or her name, date it and give the original to the consumer.
  • Certificate of Title: A vehicle's Certificate of Title is the document that establishes legal ownership over the vehicle.  When you buy a new car, it is necessary to apply for a Certificate of Title within 30 days of the purchase or else fees and penalties will apply.   If you purchase the new car from a dealer, the dealer should accept the application for title and an Ad Valorem Title Tax (TAVT) payment on your behalf.  The dealer must then deliver the title application and your TAVT payment to the county tag office in the county where you plan to register the vehicle.  If you paid for the new car in full and didn't finance it, when the title is issued it will be sent to you.  If you financed the car purchase and the finance agreement created a lien or security interest in the car, the title will list any lien or security interest holder and the title will not be released to you until you finish making the agreed upon payments.

Used Vehicles

When a dealer sells you a used car, it must provide you with many of the same documents as are required for a new car purchase, with some exceptions and additions:

  • Buyer's Order or Bill of Sale: Just as with a new vehicle, a used car Buyer's Order or Bill of Sale is the basic sales contract between the buyer and the seller.  The seller should provide you with a copy of the completed and signed contract at the time of purchase so that you can register your vehicle and to apply for a license plate.  Again, you should ensure that the contract reflects the terms you negotiated with the seller and that you get all verbal promises in writing before signing.
  • Finance Agreement or Retail Installment Contract: Just as with new cars, used cars are often financed through the dealership.  If so, Georgia law requires that the finance agreement be in writing in a retail installment contract.  The seller must give the buyer a completed copy of this document at the time the buyer signs the contract.
  • Odometer Mileage Disclosure Form:  As with new vehicle purchases, whenever a used motor vehicle is bought or sold, the seller must provide a written mileage disclosure statement. Again, this requirement applies to individual sellers as well as dealers.
  • Buyers Guide: Under the Federal Trade Commission's Used Car Rule, a used car dealer that sells six or more cars a year is required to post a Buyers Guide in every used car they offer for sale.  The dealer must then give the buyer the original or a copy of the used vehicle's Buyers Guide at the time of sale. The Guide provides important information and notices to the buyer, including: whether the vehicle is being sold "as is" or with a warranty; the percentage of repair costs a dealer will pay under the warranty; a caution that spoken promises are difficult to enforce (and to get all promises in writing); a recommendation to keep the Buyers Guide for reference after the sale; a listing of the major mechanical and electrical systems on the car, including some of the major problems the buyer should look out for; and a recommendation that the buyer should ask to have the car inspected by an independent mechanic before buying the vehicle. The back of the Buyers Guide lists the name and address of the dealer, and should list the appropriate person at the dealership to contact if the buyer has problems or complaints after the sale.  If you buy a used car and the sales discussion and negotiations are conducted in Spanish, the dealer must let you see and keep a Spanish-language version of the Buyers Guide when you make the purchase.
  • Certificate of Title: Again, a vehicle's Certificate of Title establishes legal ownership.  When you buy a used car that is already titled in another person's name, the existing title is very important, because the seller must transfer legal ownership of the vehicle to you by transferring the title to your name.  The back side of the Certificate of Title has spaces for entering the transfer of ownership, which must be completed by the current owner (the seller) before they deliver it to you (the buyer).  The seller should give you the title at the time the vehicle is delivered, and you must then promptly apply for a new title in your name at the county tag office in the county where you will register the used car. When you purchase a used car from a dealership, however, the dealer must handle the transfer process and submit the application for a new title in your name along with the appropriate Ad Valorem Title Tax (TAVT) payment on your behalf.  As with a new car purchase, you will only receive the title if there are no liens or security interest holders listed on it.  So, for example, if you financed the used car through the dealership and a security interest was created when you made the financing agreement, you would not receive the title until you finish making the agreed upon payments.

For more information on your rights and dealers' obligations, visit our website at

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Car dealer pulling credit report multiple times

February 18, 2014 20:31 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I am shopping for a new car. I specifically told the sales rep at the dealership to only check my credit one time. After running my credit report, the sales rep came back with a deal that was not good, i.e. the interest rate was too high.  I declined the offer and left. I've since discovered that the dealership checked my credit 12 times and may be continuing to do so.  This has already hurt my credit rating. I feel this is deliberate retaliation for declining their offer. What can I do?

Consumer Ed Says:

It's very important to monitor requests for your credit report. These requests are recorded on your credit reporting file, and multiple creditor requests can negatively impact your credit score. You can easily check to see who has pulled your credit report by looking at the "Inquiries" section of your credit report.

Federal law strictly limits when and how a consumer's credit report can be released to others. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a consumer report can only be released to another person or entity for limited permissible purposes that are spelled out in the law. For example, a credit reporting agency can furnish your credit report if you give written approval for the report to be released to a business; a creditor can access your credit report when you apply for credit; a collection agency can check it when attempting to collect a debt; insurance companies can pull your report to underwrite your insurance; and employers may access your report if they have your permission.   In order to access your credit report, a business must certify to the credit reporting agency that it is obtaining and using the credit report for a permissible purpose under the FCRA. A person who knowingly accesses your credit report under false pretenses can be fined, imprisoned for up to two years, or both.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, a car dealer does not have a permissible purpose to get your credit report if you're simply asking for information about vehicles and prices, or if you just take a car out for a test drive--because at that point you haven't initiated any transaction.

In your case, it sounds like you gave the dealer verbal permission to pull your credit report. So to the extent you allowed it to check your report so that the salesperson could make you an offer, you initiated a transaction with the dealership, and the dealer had a legitimate reason to pull the report--one time. However, once you declined the dealer's offer and left the dealership, the dealer no longer had a permissible purpose to check your report - it didn't have your written approval to do so, and you were no longer considering purchasing a vehicle at that dealership.

If you become aware that your credit report has been obtained outside of the FCRA guidelines, you have several options. Specifically, you can do one or more of the following:

  • Contact the business pulling your report, notify them that you do not believe they have a permissible purpose for accessing your report and request that they stop.      
  • Contact the three major credit reporting agencies to notify them that a business has been accessing your credit file without a permissible purpose.
    • For Equifax, call or write to: Equifax Credit Information Services, Inc., P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374
    • For TransUnion, you can request consumer support by visiting 
    • For Experian: Experian requests that you first obtain a copy of your Experian credit report by visiting Experian online or by calling 1-888-397-3742. Once you have your Experian personal credit report, contact the number displayed on the report for assistance.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commissionby going to; or 
  • Submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by visiting, clicking on "Credit reporting" and following the instructions provided.

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