Last year, there were more used cars sold than new cars sold. According to the New York Times, around 38 million used cars were sold over the course of the year. A good number of these used cars which were sold, unfortunately, were originally manufactured during years when there were record high numbers of auto recalls. In other words, lots of cars hitting the used car market probably have defects.
Most car buyers of used cars assume those defects will have been taken care of. After all, when a car recall is announced, it stands to reason that a car's owner would go get the vehicle fixed right away. Furthermore, most car buyers probably assume a dealer or an auction cannot just sell you a car subject to an active recall unless the problem leading to the recall has been fixed.
These assumptions are inaccurate and dangerous. Buyers of used cars need to know there is a strong possibility those used cars have defects which could cause serious or even deadly car accidents. Motorists who purchase used vehicles need to act accordingly, including checking with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in order to determine if the car they've purchased is subject to a recall. If it is, then calling the dealer to make sure your particular car has been fixed is vital to potentially saving your life.
It is up to motorists to check to make sure a used car they buy is not subject to a recall. This responsibility falls to consumers because federal law doesn't mandate used car dealers fix a recall issue (or warn about it) before the car is sold. Dealers of new cars have to make repairs ordered in a recall before selling, but dealers of used cars are not required at the federal level to do so.
Cars can move freely across state lines, with many used vehicles being sold at auto auctions and a good number of those vehicles changing hands multiple times. Since repairs don't have to be made before selling, dealers often send cars to auctions they wouldn't be comfortable selling to a local customer they know. Even well-meaning sellers may not know the car has an unrepaired recall. Because of all these factors, consumers cannot know until they check if their car has any hidden dangers.
Some of the causes of recalls, like exploding Takata airbags, actually get worse as the car gets older. The breakdown of the airbag components in the Takata case, for example, means the owner of an older car with a defective airbag is more likely to be seriously hurt than the car's original owner who bought it new. You need to make certain you've confirmed a car you buy has no unrepaired defects if you want to make certain you and your loved ones don't get hurt in a crash because a recalled repair was never made! If you do get into a collision, you also need to know what your rights are for pursing a compensation claim.