Dear Consumer Ed:

I just bought a new car only to discover after I left the dealership that it had 1,100 miles on it. Does this constitute a used car in the state of Georgia?

Consumer Ed Says:

The number of miles the car has been driven isn't the determining factor of whether the car is legally "used" or "new".   In Georgia, a "new passenger car" is one which has never been sold at retail to the general public, meaning the car title has not been transferred.

In contrast, a "used passenger car" is one that has been sold at retail to the general public or one whose title has previously been transferred. Therefore, a dealer that has used the car as a demonstrator car can sell the vehicle as "new" even when it has been driven hundreds of miles.

So, the short answer to your question is: yes, a car that has been driven 1,100 miles may indeed still be considered a "new" car.

However, while a dealer can represent that cars which have been driven as employee demos are "new," the dealer cannot misrepresent the actual condition of the vehicle. For instance, a dealer can't represent a car as a "demonstrator" car unless it has in fact been used exclusively for demonstration purposes by dealership personnel. Dealers therefore cannot sell a used car as a "new" or "demonstrator" car.

Dealers must disclose the number of miles the car has been driven. A dealer must also inform potential buyers if any damage has occurred to a new car that the dealer knows about, and which costs more than 5 percent of the manufacturer's suggested retail price to repair. 

When you purchase a new vehicle that has been driven substantially before it's sold at retail, you have increased bargaining power. So, when you are shopping for a new car, you should pay special attention to the odometer disclosure. Note the number of miles already on the car, to help you determine whether you're willing to pay the purchase price, before you sign the final purchase documents.

You may also want to ask the dealer to provide an extended warranty as a concession, since the manufacturer's warranty isn't extended when the vehicle has been driven by the dealer before retail sale. You should also ask how the car was used (i.e., whether the car was driven as a demo by a salesperson or family member of the dealer, or whether it was driven by many different people) to help you decide if you're willing to buy the car, and for what price. 


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