Recalls on vehicle models are determined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or by the manufacturer. If a car model has a defect or safety issue and doesn’t meet federal guidelines, a recall will be issued. Although this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in immediate danger, you’ll want to get the vehicle repaired as quickly as possible.
So what if the car you want to buy has an open recall? When you buy a new car that has an open recall the dealer is responsible for repairing the vehicle at no cost to you. However, if the car you want is a used vehicle and the model has an open recall things become a little trickier. Here’s a list of what you should know about buying a recalled car.
Unlike new car dealers, private sellers and used car dealerships aren’t required to make repairs prior to selling a vehicle. In fact, they’re not even obligated to tell you about the recall. To make sure you’re not getting a lemon, do your homework on the make and model of the vehicle you’re interested in. You can always rely on a Lemon Law car case attorney in California in a worst-case scenario.
The first step in researching your car is to obtain the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) from the seller. Once you have this number, go to the Consumer Reports Recall database or the government website SaferCar.gov. There you’ll find a complete and up-to-date list of all vehicles and any potential recalls. If you’re buying from a dealer, you can also ask them directly.
Look-up tools don’t always have every recall listed. If a vehicle is more than 15 years old, it likely won’t be available on the websites. The websites don’t always have listings for small or very obscure car manufacturers. The only way to be absolutely sure you’re getting what you pay for is to have a complete inspection by a certified mechanic that you trust.
Just because a car has a recall doesn’t mean it’s not a good option. Some of the most reliable cars on the road occasionally have a recall on mechanical or electrical parts. Oftentimes the parts need to be replaced with a completely newly designed part that you won’t have access to. Fixing a recall isn’t like regular maintenance. Save yourself the hassle and use a professional.
If the used car you want has an open recall, ask the dealer or private seller for a discount. You’ll save money upfront and then you can take the car to a dealer for repairs. Most car manufacturers offer free recall fixes at participating seller locations. However, you’ll want to first check to see if there’s a dealer close enough to you that doesn’t make it too much of a hassle.