New report warns consumers about unfixed car recalls

February 11, 2014 12:00 AM

There are many advantages to purchasing a used car - but there are inherent risks as well. While there is an immense potential to save money, there is also the possibility of having to deal with auto repair and other problems earlier on. Of course, if the buyer is diligent in keeping up with regular scheduled maintenance, these issues should not be too persistent, and the investment will likely be worth it. However, there are some malfunctions that simply cannot be avoided because the car owner was not aware of them when they first purchased the automobile. Carfax recently highlighted this issue with a new report. The company released some concerning data suggesting that in 2013, millions of people unknowingly bought cars with unfixed recalls last year. In fact, more than 3.5 million used cars, or more than one in 10, listed for sale online had open safety recalls.

Concerning findings
Carfax found several trends in its research. For one, the company determined that in an overwhelming 42 states, people were more likely to buy cars online with an open recall if they were shopping in March or April. Additionally, this problem was more pervasive in certain areas, with five states having nearly one-third of the total recalled cars for sale online. Texas ranked No. 1, followed by California, Missouri, Florida and Ohio. According to NBC 5, 300,000 used cars sold in Texas alone had unrepaired safety recalls

Chris Basso, spokesman for Carfax, noted that consumers often forget to check for recalls because they're focused on other aspects, such as vehicle maintenance, any history of accidents and how many owners the car has had. While recalls may not be a top concern, he was adamant that it should be a main priority for buyers to look into them, particularly as there is no federal law requiring dealers to fix these issues before selling a vehicle. Additionally, The National Independent Automobile Dealer Association, a trade organization representing independent car dealers, told NBC 5's Consumer Unit that this is a responsibility that all used car buyers need to take seriously. 

Knowledge is power
As NBC 5 points out, it's relatively simple to check for a recall, many companies even offer the service at no charge. Carfax, for example, provides complimentary Vehicle History Reports with information directly from the auto manufacturer.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a ruling that goes into effect in August, which demands all automakers grant online access to recall information. The only information needed besides the vehicle's make is the 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number. Then, if individuals determine that a recall is required, local franchise dealers can do nearly any repairs for free because the manufacturer will reimburse them. The NHTSA will also work closely with manufacturers to make sure that any car owners affected by the recalls are notified of them, and will continually track the notification schedule. The NBC 5 Investigates Consumer Unit asked Frank Davis, Ford's Executive Director of North American Product Programs, about its dedication to keeping consumers informed about these recalls. He told the news source that the customer service division currently sends five notifications over the course of four years as well as continually updates its database to inform current car owners.

Larry Gamache, communications director at Carfax, asserted that not knowing about open recalls or actively ignoring them doesn't just threaten the vehicle's performance and resell value - but it can also jeopardize a car owner's ability to ensure all passengers are protected.

"Open recalls are still a major public safety issue," he said. "It's another reminder that consumers, especially those shopping online, need to know as much as possible about a used car before they buy. This includes if an open recall or other potentially dangerous issue exists. It helps make our roads safer for everyone."

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