Each year, millions of recalled vehicles are sold to unsuspecting buyers without the much-needed repairs. According to a recent Carfax study, in 2012, just over 2 million unrepaired vehicles, which were recalled for a multitude of safety defects, were offered for sale online.
That doesn’t even give us the full picture because it just accounts for what is online and only the sites that Carfax looked at for its study. Carfax especially singled out states such as Iowa, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan because the number of recalled vehicles for sale in those states, just in the last one year, has gone up by about 25 percent.
The way Carfax determined that vehicles had been recalled, but not repaired, was through the vehicle VIN numbers. Federal officials issue recall notices by makes and models. Manufacturers and dealers track the VIN (vehicle identification number) of the individual vehicles brought in for needed repairs. In such cases, it is the consumer who gets severely shortchanged. This is because when the federal government recalls a vehicle, there is apparently a safety issue with that particular make and model.
So buying a car that is subject to such a recall could mean putting yourself and your family at risk. For example, in the last month, millions of vehicles were recalled for airbags that could “deploy strangely” catching fire or shooting out sharp pieces of metal into the vehicle compartment. There have been a number of other vehicle recalls issued over the last several months including fire hazard, defective seatbelts, airbag issues and tire defects. It is also common for vehicles to be sold across the nation. So, if your car has been recalled for corrosion in one of the cold states, but not yours, it is still important that you ensure that the necessary repairs have been made.
Doing Your Homework
Thankfully, it is fairly easy for consumers to check if the car they are about to buy is subject to a recall. They can look up the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) web site safercar.gov. This is where NHTSA posts recall summaries from the past six months. You can also check out Carfax’s free recall web site, recall.carfax.com. Another free resource for consumers in this regard is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s web site.
California is taking some positive steps to rectify such problems. Legislators are working on introducing legislation that would require sellers to repair recalled vehicles before selling them. Last year, senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein sponsored federal legislation that requires rental car companies to repair recalled vehicles before their customers drive off in them.
Tips for Consumers
There are several steps consumers can take in order to protect themselves:
• Always do a background check. Do a check at CarFax.com/recall for a list of used cars that are affected by recalls. You can also look up SaferCar.gov particularly if you have a vehicle identification number (VIN).
• If an owner has ignored a recall on a used car for more than six months, it is likely that the car is not being kept in good condition mechanically. For the buyer, it should raise a red flag when the vehicle owner has ignored a recall notice. It is also likely that owners who are ignoring recall notices are hiding other problems in the vehicle. Or they may have done some type of quick fix to avoid further expense.
• If the owner refuses to complete the recall work, you could either walk away from the deal or do the repair yourself. You will have room to negotiate the vehicle price.
• Never ignore a recall notice or buy a vehicle that you know has not been repaired.
If you are in the market for a used car, whether you are purchasing a vehicle from an individual owner or a dealer, it would be well worth your time to do your homework. Whether you are a buyer or a seller, do not ignore recall notices. You may be putting yourself, your family or someone else in danger. It takes only a few minutes of your time, but could save you a lifetime of heartache and grief.
Seeking Compensation for Auto Defects
Injured victims of auto defects have legal rights. Injured victims can file an auto product liability claim against the automaker and other negligent parties seeking compensation such as medical expenses, lost wages, hospitalization, rehabilitation, pain and suffering and emotional distress. Families of deceased victims can seek compensation by filing a wrongful death claim. An experienced auto product liability lawyer will be able to advise injured victims and their families in such cases regarding their legal rights and options.