Vehicle manufacturers issue recalls for defects that have been discovered, some of which could be serious safety issues. New car dealerships fix the problem for free; all the owner has to do is schedule an appointment and bring the car or truck in for the service. Despite these precautions, many recall defects have never been fixed. If you're considering buying a used car or truck, it's important to check its recall history and to learn whether these repairs have been made.
As of February 2015, some 46 million vehicles still being driven had recalls that were never addressed. That's a staggeringly high number when you consider it's a full 20 percent of passenger cars and trucks on the road.
When safety defects aren't repaired promptly, they can get worse.
Dealerships are required by law to fix recalls on new vehicles on their lots. Manufacturers also must alert vehicle owners when a recall is issued. But they don't have to track down future owners if the problem is never repaired.
Dealerships aren't required to learn whether recalls have been repaired on used cars that are traded in or to tell customers about recalls.
For these reasons, many owners have no idea their car or truck has a safety problem that needs to be fixed.
How to Find Out if Repairs Were Made
To find out if a used vehicle has outstanding recalls, you'll need its vehicle identification number (VIN). This 17-digit number is a bar code usually located by the windshield at the driver's side or inside the doorjamb. If you're uncomfortable asking a salesperson for this number, go to the lot outside of business hours and make a note of it.
To learn about recalls, you have a few different options.
- Call a new car dealership that sells this particular vehicle brand and ask a service department representative whether the VIN has any recalls.
- Enter the VIN into a website sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
- Search for the VIN on the Carfax website in the section devoted to recalls.
Don't pass up used trucks or cars because they have an outstanding recall. You can have the problem fixed for free after you buy the vehicle. The used dealership may even be willing to take care of this before you make the purchase. Then you'll have the ride you want and you'll know it's safe.