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Buyer Beware: Used Cars Subject to Different Protections Than New Cars

Product Defect

The new highway bill that recently was signed into law seems to have been influenced by the automotive industry because it does not require used-car dealerships to make repairs on vehicles with open recalls, leaving buyers fending for themselves.

Conversely, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act requires – finally – rental-car companies to do just that.

So, how can consumers protect their safety behind the wheel? Put another item on the car-search checklist that could prevent an injury or save a life.

“While the thought of buying – or having just bought – a car with an outstanding recall may be worrisome or scary, remember that a recall means that a problem has been found and a solution identified,” writes Jon Linkov in Consumer Reports. “Of course, there remains risk in driving a recalled vehicle before work is performed, and some recalls can take significant time for parts and training to be available locally.”


Used Car Lot

In almost every case of a recall, the repair will be made at a local dealership free . Also, although such action is not federally mandated, reputable sellers offering certified pre-owned vehicles will address recalls. Another layer of protection comes from the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), which prompts its members to check for and correct recalls of vehicles at their dealerships.

“However, non-manufacturer certification or inspection programs may not include checking for and addressing open recalls and retailers selling vehicles from a different brand, or a corner-lot-type used-car dealer, may not address recalls,” Linkov writes. “Therefore, the ultimate responsibility rests with the consumer to verify their car has had all applicable recall work performed.”

According to Automotive News, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) seems to push back against the dealership lobby, of which NADA, whose mission as the “Voice of the Dealer” is to advocate before Congress, is a part. First, the FTC has initiated a campaign to quantify vehicle recalls as a consumer-protection issue. Second, American Honda, AutoNation – the largest dealership in the United States – and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have joined the FTC, trying to ensure no vehicles with open recalls are sold before repairs are made.

“Taken together, the moves make clear that while the proposed federal law to close the used-car loophole is dead for now, efforts to keep unrepaired recalled vehicles out of circulation are stirring,” according to Automotive News. “And with powerful players mobilizing on the issue in an era of high-volume, high-profile recalls, dealers and automakers may face pressure to revisit their policies.”

Consumers can obtain recall information on vehicles they intend to purchase by using the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s vehicle-identification tool.

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