Dear Consumer Ed:
I dropped my car off at the dealership for a repair. They said it would take two days to repair, but they’ve had the car for a week now and I’m still waiting. I need my car! Is there a law that will force them to make the repair as promised?
Consumer Ed says:
Unfortunately, Georgia does not have any specific laws that govern general automotive repair timelines.
The answer to your question depends on several factors:
- Did you receive the time estimate in writing?
Yes – If you received the estimate in writing, then you may have a written contract and you need to refer to the terms set forth in the agreement.
No – If you did not receive the estimate in writing, it will be difficult to prove that the dealership promised you the vehicle would be ready in two days and didn’t just simply give you an estimate that was subject to change. Even if the dealership gave you only a verbal timeframe, you may have an auto repair contract, but whether it’s a valid contract or if it’s been breached would be something to discuss with a private attorney.
- Was your repair was covered under warranty?
If your repair was covered by a warranty, give the dealership reasonable opportunity to repair the defect. Whether you give the dealership a “reasonable opportunity” includes the following factors:
- the type of repair required,
- the number of visits to the dealership,
- the length of time provided to the dealership for the repair,
- the reason for the dealership’s delay, and
- whether the dealership had previously (and successfully) repaired the same or different defect.
If your repair was covered under a written warranty, and this was the first time you brought in the vehicle for this type of repair, it would not be unreasonable for the dealership to extend their two-day estimate to one week. But once again, this may vary depending on the facts in your particular situation (and the factors listed above).
We recommend contacting the dealership to inquire about the delay. This will be the most time- and cost-effective resolution. If those attempts are unsuccessful, then you would have to seek private representation to dispute the timeframe or refusal of repair. But keep in mind that you have the right to pick up your vehicle at any time.
If you feel the reason is unfounded, unreasonable, or you believe you have been a victim of a fraudulent or deceptive practice, it may be worthwhile to check the dealership’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) rankings to determine whether this is a common practice at that specific dealership. If it is, you should file a complaint with the BBB or Attorney General’s office.
- Is this the first of many attempts to fix the same problem on a newly-leased or newly-purchased vehicle?
If it is, Georgia’s Lemon Law rights are designed to help consumers get repairs on their newly-purchased or newly-leased defective vehicles. Under the Georgia Lemon Law, you are covered for up to 2 years or up to 24,000 miles after your purchase, whichever comes sooner. You are covered if you:
- leased or purchased a new vehicle,
- the lease or purchase took place within the state of Georgia,
- you are the original owner, and
- the defect that you are seeking to get repaired either:
- Makes the car unsafe to drive,
- Lowers the resale value of the car, or
- Causes malfunctions to the vehicle's normal uses.
Defects caused by neglect, misuse, abuse, or alterations are not covered by the lemon law. Once again, similar to warranties, the manufacturer or its authorized dealer has a reasonable number of attempts to fix your vehicles defect. A “reasonable” number of attempts is defined as either:
- 3 attempts for most issues.
- 1 attempt for defects that could cause serious injury or death, or
- After being out of service for at least 30 days.
If the manufacturer fails to repair a recurring problem after a reasonable number of attempts you may be entitled to a replacement vehicle or a refund. If this is the case, the Lemon Law requires you to follow certain steps. You can learn more about the Lemon Law Complaint Process in detail here.