Does Your “Certified Used Car” Have an Open Safety Recall?

When you purchase a “certified used car,” it makes sense to think that it’s safe to drive it off the lot. But that’s not always the case. Roughly ⅙ of used vehicles listed for sale have unresolved recalls that the dealer may not even mention. Even when dealers provide a car with their stamp of approval, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the car is safe to drive.

Advertising that a vehicle has undergone a thorough inspection suggests that known safety issues have been fixed. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and some states may consider it false advertising to “certify” the reliability of a vehicle with unaddressed safety recalls. Still, many dealers fail to fix, or even mention, open recalls.

Manufacturers are required to issue recalls if they become aware of any safety defects or safety standards that their vehicles fail to meet. They’re also required to notify owners and offer free repairs to rectify the issue. But there are no laws in place requiring owners to act on these recalls, even if that owner is a dealer trying to sell a used vehicle.

Sometimes these issues can be as simple as a misprint in the owner’s manual. But they can also be life threatening problems that need immediate attention. One such recall involved Takata airbags that could project metal fragments in an accident. And as of January 2020, more than 15 million of these airbags were on the road in vehicles made by Honda, Toyota, BMW, and a number of other manufacturers.

Even dealers that appear reputable may sell used cars with open recalls. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) auctions off government fleet vehicles that are no longer in use. In July of 2020, almost 15% of the vehicles up for auctions had unresolved recalls. And while some lawmakers are trying to ban the practice, it’s still currently legal.

In 2017, Senator Richard Blumenthall (D-Conn.) introduced the Used Car Safety Recall Repair Act to address these issues. This bill, and a similar bill introduced in the House, would require dealers to resolve any existing recalls prior to selling a used car, as they already do for new vehicles. But it’s been nearly four years since Blumenthall brought the bill to the Senate. And dealers are still free to sell used with open recalls.

The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) strongly opposes both bills. They argue that the bills would reduce the trade-in value of vehicles by an average of $1,200. The NADA suggests that this “trade-in tax” would encourage people to turn to private sales for which there are few consumer protections in place.

What Can You Do?

When you’re shopping for a used car, it’s essential to do your research. Before purchasing a vehicle, take it to a trusted mechanic to perform a thorough inspection. Doing so might cost $100 – $200. But it could save you thousands of dollars, countless hours of headaches, and potentially save your life.

Check the status of recalls for any vehicle by visiting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website. This information is also available via CarFax and Experian car history reports, which many dealers provide at no cost. However, dealers are under no obligation to do so and may not mention open recalls even if they’re aware of them. If you’re interested in purchasing a car with an unresolved recall, ask the dealer to fix the problem before you buy.

If you purchased a “certified used vehicle” and later learned about an unresolved recall, contact a lemon law lawyer. Krohn & Moss, Ltd. Consumer Law Center® has decades of experience helping customers stand up for their rights. 

Call us today at (866) 388-8290 for a free case review. We understand how frustrating it is to buy a lemon and will do all we can to get you the appropriate compensation.

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