If you buy a used car, you may be purchasing a vehicle with an active recall. You may never know that the car you are buying has a dangerous defect that could kill you or cause you serious injury. The person you buy the car from does not necessarily have to tell you that the car was subject to a recall that has not been fixed. You may never get a notice from a manufacturer, as the original vehicle owner did. The person you purchase the car from may not have even known about the recall, since used cars can change hands multiple times.
If you buy a car that has a defect and the defect has not been repaired, the consequences can be deadly. New York Times reported on one fender bender that turned fatal because car the woman was driving in had an airbag which was prone to exploding.
The woman, who got the car from her son who bought it from a friend who bought it at auction, had no idea the dealer had sent the original owner more than 20 notices about the recall. She had no reason to suspect she would be killed in a fender bender that she should have walked away from. She is not alone. Every buyer of a used car is at risk of this happening. Motorists need to know how to protect themselves to reduce the chances of tragic outcomes.
More than 38 million people bought used cars last year, and every one of these motorists needs to know how to protect himself from a surprise accident, injury, or fatality caused by an unrepaired defect. The first step is knowing that you cannot assume a car you buy from a used car dealer or from a car auction to have had repairs made, even if there was a recall and the repairs were free.
Federal law only requires that dealers of new cars address recall issues before selling. This requirement doesn't exist on the federal level for used cars, which means vehicles can move across state lines and be sold by different dealers and at different auctions even as the cars continue to contain their defective parts.
Once you know that a car you buy used could potentially have unrepaired parts despite a recall, you can protect yourself by checking its recall status. You can visit National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to find out if the particular vehicle you've purchased has an active recall or not. If your car does not have a recall, you can contact a dealer and ask them to check your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN number) to see if the car had its necessary repairs or not. If a car didn't have its repairs, you should take swift action.