How To Handle a Used Car for Sale with a Recall

2008 Dodge Dakota

Recalls are all over the news, especially this past week. What does that mean for you when it comes to buying used cars? Should you buy a used car with a recall notice?

It may be tough not to. FCA has been hit with a record fine from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration for its mishandling of recalls. It will be recalling more than a half-million used vehicles, in some cases buying them back outright. As reported on the CarGurus blog recently, “Models included in the buyback offer are certain models of the 2009-2012 Ram 1500, the 2008 Ram 1500 Mega Cab 4×4, and the 2008-2012 Ram 2500 4×4. Also included are the 2009 Chrysler Aspen and 2009-2011 Dodge Durango and Dodge Dakota.”

According to the Detroit News, GM is being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission for its dealers allegedly selling certified pre-owned used cars that were subject to recall. That is especially egregious, because manufacturer certified pre-owned used cars are supposed to be the cream of the crop. Even GM’s own certified pre-owned 172-point inspection list has open recalls listed number 3 on the list under “Review the Vehicle’s History.”

If you are used car shopping, the first thing you need to do is get the vehicle identification number or VIN as it is commonly known. (You can typically find it on the driver’s side of a vehicle’s windshield or on its title or registration.) Car listings here at CarGurus include the VIN.

Take the VIN and plug it into the recall look-up page at SaferCar.gov. For example, we took a listing from a 2011 Dodge Dakota, because it could potentially be part of the Takata airbag recall. Looking up the VIN confirmed it was, indeed, still part of an open recall that hadn’t been fixed yet.

Does that immediately eliminate the vehicle from the running? It should in the case of the Takata recall. That’s been identified as a potentially significant safety issue. As SaferCar.gov puts it, “An inflator rupture, during airbag deployment events, could result in metal fragments striking and potentially seriously injuring the vehicle occupant(s).” That’s not a risk worth taking.

Only buy a vehicle with a Takata recall outstanding if the seller agrees to have the repair done before completing the sale (and make sure there is paperwork to prove it). By the way, the government offers a complete list of the Takata recall, which involves more than 32 million vehicles. It’s a good place to start.

There are other levels of safety recalls that aren’t as great a concern. What should you do if you come across a used car you want to buy but it has an open recall? Buy it but offer a reduced price. Estimate you’re probably going to need miss a day of work to get the recall fix done. So, if you earn $250 a day, knock that off your offer.

Be safe. See if there is a recall on the used vehicle you want to buy, and then judge the risk on buying it.

-Keith Griffin

Find Certified Pre-Owned Cars and Used Cars in your area at CarGurus.

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