Buying a Used Car? Don't Forget to Check for Open Recalls

Buying a Used Car? Don't Forget to Check for Open Recalls

6th Nov 2019

women sitting behind the wheel

Vehicle Recalls

Are you looking to purchase a used car? Considering that the average cost of a new car in the United States is over $36,000, according to CreditDonkey, many motorists prefer used cars, which often just a fraction of that price. If you're going to buy a used car, though, you need to check for open recalls. Failure to perform the necessary research beforehand could result in you unknowingly purchasing an unsafe vehicle.

What Is an Open Recall?

An open recall means the automaker has issued a notice about a potential flaw, defect or hazard to customers about a specific vehicle. Maybe the brakes are bad, or perhaps the engine is prone is cracking. Regardless, if a vehicle has a safety hazard that could result in injury or collision, the automaker will issue an open recall for that vehicle. Customers who purchased the vehicle can then drive it to a local dealership or affiliated mechanic to have it repaired at no additional charge.

How Common Are Open Recalls With Used Cars?

It's rare for dealers to sell new cars with an open recall. In the United States, federal law prohibits dealers from selling new vehicles with an open recall. If a new car has an open recall, the dealer must fix it before selling it on his or her lot.

With that said, dealers are allowed to sell used cars with an open recall -- and it's become an increasingly common practice in recent years. According to a recent Carfax study, there were 63 million vehicles with at least one open recall on the roads last year. To put that number into perspective that's a 34% increase when compared to 2016.

How to Check for Open Recalls

The good news is that you can easily check for open recalls. Even if you're planning to purchase a used car, a short two- or three-minute Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) search should reveal whether a car has an open recall.

To see if a used car has an open recall, visit the NHTSA's website here and enter the car's VIN. The website will then scan the registry of open recalls, and if the used car has an open recall, it will reveal show on screen. You don't have to necessarily walk away from a used car with an open recall. You should, however, ask the dealer to fix it. If the dealer isn't willing to fix it, you can then walk away to continue your search elsewhere.