Used car dealers across the nation persist in foisting off unsafe, recalled vehicles on an unsuspecting public. Motor vehicles rank among the most hazardous consumer products in the nation, in terms of fatalities, serious and debilitating injuries, and economic costs to our country.
Fortunately, car dealers are prohibited by federal law from selling or leasing NEW cars that are being recalled by the manufacturer. But unfortunately, there is no such law to protect USED car buyers.
Each year, about 40 million people purchase used cars. But the powerful auto dealer lobby — which received billions of taxpayer dollars during the Great Recession — has blocked attempts in Congress to protect used car buyers from unsafe, defective recalled cars being sold at dealerships.
News organizations have repeatedly identified this problem. In 2010, the non-partisan U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended that Congress address the threat posed by unsafe, recalled used cars. But so far, Congress has failed to act. Auto dealers are not even required to report fatal or injury crashes involving recalled vehicles they sell to the public, to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
CBS’ Early Show investigated sales of recalled, used cars and found unfixed, recalled cars on lots scattered across the country. When they asked if the cars were being recalled, sales personnel assured them that they wouldn’t have them for sale if they were being recalled. If only that were true.
According to CBS’ Early Show: “A dealer in Oklahoma sold Tabitha Gordon a used Durango in 2009. She was driving with her son, Kaden, when the lights, wipers and locks went haywire. Gordon said of the incident, “I felt like I was in a twilight zone. … The plastic that covers the speedometer had popped, and smoke started billowing into the vehicle.”
She managed to pull over and get Kaden out as the car caught on fire. [“Early Show” Consumer Correspondent Susan] Koeppen said it turns out Gordon was sold a car that had been recalled for an electrical defect. “We were told that it was safe and it would be a safe vehicle for our family,” Gordon said. “And it wasn’t, it was far from it.”
Watch video: CBS Early Show — Recalled Used Cars Up For Sale
Can you imagine how awful it would be, for your car to catch on fire, when you have your child strapped in a child safety seat in the back? What if you are driving with several children who are strapped in? Would you be able to get all of them out in time, before the car explodes?
Auto dealers complain that it’s too much bother for them to find out if a car is being recalled and get it fixed, before offering it for sale. They would rather risk your life, and your family’s safety, than take the time to call the manufacturer’s toll free number and check the car’s status, or visit the manufacturer’s website, online, and get the car fixed — for free.
CARS believes that even if you can’t afford a new car, or if you simply decide that a used car is a better deal, you and your family still deserve to be safe.
What can you to to protect yourself from unsafe, recalled used cars? When you find a car you like, NEVER take the car dealer’s word for it that the car does not have a safety recall pending. As reporters have repeatedly documented, car dealers are prone to lying about safety recalls, even if you ask them face-to-face about a specific car.
Instead, BEFORE you buy, do your own research. Note the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which is stamped on a small plate on the dashboard, visible through the windshield. Call the auto manufacturer’s toll-free number and ask if all the recall work has already been done. Or check the auto manufacturer’s website, under “safety recalls,” and enter the VIN. You can also contact a local dealership that sells that make of vehicle, and ask them to double-check for you. Since new car dealers get paid to do recall repairs on makes they sell, at least they have some incentive to tell you the truth.
Read More: CARS tips for used car buyers