Used Car Buyers Usually Not Told Vehicle Was Recalled

Used car lot

Federal Law Does Not Require Dealers to Fix Defects Or Notify Customers

Used car dealers are not required to repair defects in recalled vehicles on their lots or to tell buyers about the recalls. Without legislation, car dealers have little incentive to address this dangerous issue. Fixing the problem costs the dealer precious time and money that it may not recoup from the sale. Telling a prospective costumer that she or he is now responsible for arranging for repairs may lose the sale altogether. A federal law is, therefore, necessary to protect the safety of buyers.

Rental Car Companies Not Responsible for Repairs Either

Customers have the right to expect rental cars to be up to basic safety standards. Yet, rental companies are not required to fix or disclose defects in recalled vehicles in their fleets. Again, without a legislative mandate, rental companies have little incentive to take cars out of service or drive away potential customers. 

Several major retail companies have agreed to voluntarily make all repairs of recalled cars before renting them. However, the customer is forced to rely upon the word of the company under this self-enforcement arrangement. And, a customer who rents a shiny, clean vehicle from an Avis, an Enterprise or a Hertz can’t possibly know what is lurking under the hood.

Laws on Recall Responsibilities Flounder

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed legislation that would have changed this threat to public safety, but lawmakers have shot down NHTSA’s attempts at regulating this important matter. In an interview with the New York Times, NHTSA Deputy Administrator David J. Friedman says that a law mandating repair or notice “should be a slam dunk.” His viewpoints reflect what everybody but car dealers and rental company executives seem to think: “To me it is hard to oppose ensuring that people who buy a car, whether it is new or used, or whether you are renting a vehicle, can have the confidence that it is safe.” 

Customers Put at Serious Risk

Hien Tran was unaware of the recall issued on her used 2001 Honda Accord she bought from a Florida dealer. Her family learned about the Takata airbags recall only after Ms. Tran was fatally injured in an accident near her Orlando home. Ms. Tran’s death was initially investigated as a homicide because law enforcement thought she had suffered stab wounds to her neck. When investigators eventually learned of the recall, they realized her injuries were actually caused by an exploding airbag canister that shot shards of metal into the vehicle cabin.

Ms. Tran’s tragic death is just one of the sad stories about unnecessary injuries caused by recalled used and rented vehicles. But, customers are left on their own to learn whether a recall exists and repairs have been made. When buying a used car, a potential buyer should order the vehicle’s history first, for example through a Carfax report. Also, a buyer can check for recalls on the manufacturer’s website and ask for specific information and receipts for any repairs the dealer claims were made. If the dealer is reluctant to supply proof of repairs, the customer is better off going somewhere else.

Unfortunately, gathering this type of information on a rental car is more difficult and less practical. The renter does not know which individual car she or he is going to receive from the company, often in another city entirely, and so would not have an opportunity to conduct in-depth research on a particular car or model. 

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