The Georgia Motor Vehicle Exemption in Bankruptcy

Learn about the Georgia motor vehicle exemption and whether it will allow you to keep your car in bankruptcy.

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The Georgia motor vehicle exemption helps determine whether you can keep your car, truck, van, or other vehicle if you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Here you’ll find information about the Georgia car exemption: how much it is, what types of vehicles it covers, how it works for married couples, how to find the applicable statute, and more.

(For more information about exemptions, including how they work and which ones you can use, see our Bankruptcy Exemptions area. For information specific to the motor vehicle exemption, see our Motor Vehicle Exemption in Bankruptcy area.)

The Georgia Motor Vehicle Exemption and Your Car

Georgia’s motor vehicle exemption plays a large role in determining whether or not the bankruptcy trustee can take your vehicle to repay your unsecured creditors.  If the equity in your car is less than Georgia’s car exemption, then the trustee cannot sell it. If the equity in your car is significantly more than the applicable exemption amount, the trustee is likely to sell your car to repay your unsecured creditors. For details, see The Motor Vehicle Exemption: Can You Keep Your Car in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy? 

Keep in mind that even if your car is safe from the bankruptcy trustee, the lender may be able to repossess your car during or after bankruptcy. To learn more, see Your Car in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and If You Are Behind on Your Car Payments, Can Chapter 7 Help?

The Amount of Georgia’s Motor Vehicle Exemption

In Georgia, you can exempt up to $5,000 in equity in your car or other vehicle.

The Federal Motor Vehicle Exemption

Some states allow bankruptcy filers to use the Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions instead of state exemptions, but Georgia is not one of these states.

Using Georgia’s Wildcard Exemption to Protect Your Car

If the equity in your car is more than $5,000 you may be able to cover the extra equity by using a wildcard exemption. A wildcard exemption can be used to exempt any type of property and can be added to the motor vehicle exemption. 

Georgia has a wildcard exemption of $600 plus any unused portion of the homestead exemption up to $5,000.  So if you did not use the homestead exemption or you still have over $5,000 available, then you have an additional wildcard exemption of $5,600 to apply to your car.  

Example. Let's say you did not use the homestead exemption and you own a car worth $9,000 free and clear.  You can combine Georgia’s $5,000 motor vehicle exemption with your $5,600 wildcard exemption to exempt the full value ($9,000) of your car. So you would be able to keep your car if you filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Can Married Couples Double Georgia’s Motor Vehicle Exemption?

Some states allow married couples filing a joint bankruptcy petition to double the listed exemption amounts. In Georgia you can double your bankruptcy exemptions if you are married. 

This means that the Georgia motor vehicle exemption for married couples filing a joint bankruptcy is $10,000.  Similarly, the wildcard exemption can also be doubled.  As such, married couples are allowed a wildcard exemption up to $11,200 if they still have enough of their homestead exemption available.

(To learn about the advantages and disadvantages of joint bankruptcy filings, see Nolo's section on Bankruptcy Options for Married Couples).

What Vehicles Are Covered by the Motor Vehicle Exemption?

The Georgia motor vehicle exemption covers your car, truck, van, or other vehicle.  Also, it can be used to exempt multiple vehicles so long as the total amount allowed is not exceeded.

Checking Georgia’s Exemption Laws

You can find Georgia’s motor vehicle exemption at Georgia Code Annotated § 44-13-100 (a)(3).

You can find the Georgia statutes on the website of the Georgia General Assembly at www.legis.ga.gov/en-US/default.aspx. To learn how to find state statutes, see Nolo’s Laws and Legal Research area.

When the Georgia Exemption Amounts Are Updated

The exemption laws in Georgia change periodically.  Before filing bankruptcy, check the latest exemption amounts to make sure you can protect all your property.

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