A recent consumer safety article discussed several terrifying incidents where individuals who had recently purchased a used car got into trouble after a recalled problem presented itself. In one case out of Oklahoma, a woman bought a used Dodge Durango. While she was driving her young son around, the lights, wipers and power locks suddenly went crazy and the plastic piece covering the speedometer popped off as smoke filled the vehicle. Thankfully the woman was able to stop the car and carry her son to safety before it burst into flame. The trouble? Durangos had been recalled for an electrical defect and the car had never been repaired.
In another harrowing case, the owner of a used Lexus was left permanently disabled when his car crashed into a tractor-trailer after an unsecured floor mat got stuck on the accelerator. Though the recalled repair was a simple one, the dealership never bothered to complete it before selling the car.
Sadly problems like these are not unique. According to Carfax, each year more than 2 million unrepaired recalled vehicles are sold online and likely many more go unrepaired offline. Though federal law prevents dealerships from selling or leasing a new car that has been recalled, there is no such restriction for used car sales.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office has recommended for years that legislation be passed requiring dealerships to repair recalled vehicles, saying that consumers do not realize they might be purchasing a dangerous vehicle. Though a new piece of legislation was recently introduced in Congress which would require rental car companies to repair vehicles before giving them to a customer, there is no provision in the measure that would impact the sale of recalled used cars.
While consumers wait for that legislation, in the mean time you can take some actions to protect yourself if you’re looking for a used vehicle. First, look up the make and model on government websites such as www.safecar.gov and check to see if it is already part of a recall, if so, you can ask the dealer to take care of the issue or at least ensure that you have the problem addressed immediately. If you already purchased a vehicle, look it up online, a simple check now could end up saving your life.