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A cautionary tale for those who buy used cars

Thankfully, I am many decades removed from the need to buy a used car, but for those who are still in the position of buying used cars, here is some food for thought:


When someone buys a used car, it is very little extra work to call a dealer of that’s brand and ask if there are any open recalls on the car. All you have to do is provide the VIN. A few months ago, my wife wanted to know if one of our cars had an open recall. I looked it up on and found none. She called the dealer and they said there was one. We made arrangements to fix it when they had parts available.

And there is this.

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THAT . . is why we run every VIN.
Even when they’re just here for an oil change, run the vin.
ANY open recalls are performed or an appointment made to do so.

I’m one of the few who is thankfull that I don’t need a new car and spend less money owning and operating 2 vehicles safely and reliably than most people spend on coffee. Of course the last new car that I bought was a Vega so a 10 year old Ranger with 110,000 miles is a significant improvement.

Aside from checking the repair records, it is definitely a must to check if there’s any recall.

While I agree that this is a tragic situation, it is a classic example of falling through the cracks. Many cars changed many hands, many attempts were made to contact the owners, and many of the owners and family members were ignorant of the simple way to discover recalls.

There are many complications to this issue, however. What do you do with a car that has a recall but parts are not available? My current used car, a 2013 Mustang has a recall for the airbag but no parts. I knew the car was on recall because the seller, CarMax, told me so and Ford subsequently told me parts would not be available for a year. I feel CarMax did its due diligence, as did I, but I bought the car anyway.

Should CarMax have to hold the car until parts are available? Should I as a private seller? That is a hardship on us both. Would I be forced to sell to a dealer that would then be forced to hold the car until repairs could be made? What if the airbags are disabled? Who is liable if injury occurs in an accident?

I don’t pretend to know the answer but developing the right questions often leads to the right answer.

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Not all questions have answers. Burdening a private party with having to check for recalls and get them performed simply isn’t realistic. It might be fine for a 55 year old mechanic, but is it realistic for an 18 year old selling his used beast to enter the military?

There is, however, something valuable that can be taken from this thread. A buyer of a used car can and should check with a dealership for any recalls against the vehicle. If the buyer has the VIN, the dealer can also check the databanks to see whether the recall has been done to the vehicle. That, I believe, is prudent and realistic. Hopefully the .0000001% of the used car buying population who’ll read this will pass it on to their friends. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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Thanks for agreeing with me, @Joe_Guy.

Recently I went to a Range Rover/Jaguar dealership to look at a used Prius. The sales rep. went to get the key for a test drive. A few minutes later he came back without the keys. He said there was a recall on the side airbags and they won’t sell the car until that work is done.

Why does it always seem to be someone else’s responsibility when things go wrong??

Safety advocates say that Mr. Henderson and the sellers before him should never have sold a recalled car without disclosing the defect or getting the airbag replaced at a Honda dealer at no cost to the owner.

Recall information on specific cars is available from the car’s maker and, since 2014, has been pooled in an online government database, which anyone can search using a vehicle identification number. And even before then, dealers and consumers alike were able to check whether a car was under recall by calling a government auto safety hotline.

So, according to “safety advocates” the buyer bears no responsibility to ensure they are buying an up to date car even though ANYONE can make the call or do the search…

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I just can’t respond to that without going off the deep end except maybe safe rooms would be helpful for anxious buyers with maybe counselors available.

When we traded our 2012 Acura TL, the dealer said they would not be able to sell it until the passenger air bag had been replaced. Said their lot was getting full with cars waiting to be fixed. That was a Honda/Acura policy/rule/directive anyway so don’t know if it would be a legal requirement-doubt it.

Good point, but it’s not the cars which haven’t been repaired for recalls which will get you. It’s the ones which have a defect which no one knows about … yet.
Perhaps recalls should be kept in perspective. Most recalls I’ve noticed have been for defects which have a very low probability of failure, or which do not affect safety. If you are concerned about safety, please visit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (iihs) website and research overall safety ratings for any car you intend to buy. I think you will be better off than if you worry about most recalls.