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How to Buy a Used Car in the Age of Widespread Recalls

» Posted June 23, 2017Resources | Share This Post

Car buyers need to be aware of what the law does, and does not require of car sellers and car manufacturers. While laws like California’s Lemon Law can provide some protection to purchasers of defective cars, other regulations can be very lax. For example, used car dealers are allowed to sell cars with open recalls, even if they have not fixed the issue that prompted the recall. 

Consumers need to know how to protect themselves when shopping for a car, especially given the record number of recalls in recent years. The New York Times recently published an article explaining how to buy a used car during a time of widespread recalls.  The NYT guide is a good place to start for drivers who are concerned they could end up purchasing an unsafe car.

How to Buy a Safe Car Despite Millions of Recalls

The New York Times explains that buying a car has become more dangerous than in the past because so many more cars are being recalled. Defective Takata Airbags, for example, were installed in millions of vehicles, and there are not enough parts available to immediately fix them. 

In part because cars sometimes cannot be quickly repaired, the Federal Trade Commission is allowing dealers to sell certified pre-owned cars with open recalls, even if the recalls aren't fixed and even if the recall isn’t disclosed to the buyer.  As long as the dealer has a sign somewhere alerting buyers to the fact the cars could be under recall, the dealer has satisfied its legal obligations.

Motorists need to know that they could buy a certified pre-owned car that has an active recall and should be sure to research the car they’re considering buying. The Times recommends beginning your search at safercar.gov to see if a vehicle you are interested in has been recalled. 

Motorists can look for a make and model if they want general information about a car they might like to buy or can enter a vehicle's VIN to get specific info about the exact car they might purchase. If they see a car has an open recall, the motorist can check Carfax to confirm whether the vehicle has been repaired or not.

Motorists are also advised to ask dealers about open recalls and to ask for proof of repairs if the dealer claims that fixes have been made.

Of course, knowing how to shop for a car (even a brand new car) is no guarantee that the car you buy won't turn out to have serious problems. For motorists who purchase a new car and who have issues with the vehicle, the Lemon Law could provide important protections. Contact an experienced attorney today to find out if the lemon law could provide you with a remedy if your car is having issues.


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