Updated May 20, 2016
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.)
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?
In Georgia, you can exempt up to $5,000 in equity in your car or other vehicle.
Some states allow bankruptcy filers to use the Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions instead of state exemptions, but Georgia is not one of these states.
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 $1,200 plus any unused portion of the homestead exemption up to $10,000. 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 $11,200 to apply to your car. (Learn more in The Georgia Wildcard Exemption in Bankruptcy.)
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 $11,200 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.
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 $22,400 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).
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.
You can find Georgia’s motor vehicle exemption at Georgia Code Annotated § 44-13-100 (a)(3).
The exemption laws in Georgia change periodically. Before filing bankruptcy, check the latest exemption amounts to make sure you can protect all your property.