Avoiding Unsafe Recalled Used Cars

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for used car signs.jpgRecalls on used cars are issued when a manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determines that a vehicle is not safe to drive. If a used car is recalled, the manufacturer must fix the problem, replace the defective part, or in extreme cases repurchase the vehicle. Recalled cars that have not been repaired can be dangerous.

Many owners of recalled cars are driving them unaware that their vehicle is not safe. Although manufacturers are required to notify owners of recalls, those notices are sometimes not delivered, and they are easy to overlook, forgot, or ignore.

Additionally, many consumers never receive the notice because the recall was issued before they bought the car. Sadly, many car dealers will purchase cars with unresolved recalls and resell them without fixing the problem. Although the manufacturer will fix the cars for used car dealers at no cost, many dealers don't bother to check for unresolved recalls. Many others opt for the quick sale rather than removing the dangerous car from inventory for the time that the repairs would require.

Although the law does not explicitly prohibit used car dealers from selling recalled used cars with unresolved safety problems,dealerships that sell unsafe cars may be violating laws prohibiting unfair practices or auto dealer fraud, particularly if they have "certified" the car. 

The NHTSA has a free website,, to check whether a car or truck has an open recall issue. We recommend that consumers check this site annually to confirm that their cars do not have any open safety issues.

Consumers who are considering purchasing a used car should also check the NHTSA website before they buy. Any dealership that would sell a dangerous used car with an open recall should be avoided.

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