Buying a used car can be a little like playing Russian roulette these days.
Even though modern cars are as safe as automobiles have ever been, about one in four cars on the road have open recalls on them. That translates to over 63 million cars in the United States that have been recalled but never fixed.
That represents a massive 34 percent jump over the figure that was measured a year ago.
What’s going on?
Nearly a third of registered vehicles in Texas have unfixed recalls, the highest percentage in the United States. Hawaii, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama are the states with the next highest percentages. Considering that those hot, humid states are where many of the Takata airbag recalls focused on, a high incidence of unfixed vehicles in Gulf States isn’t that surprising.
Also, many of the unrepaired vehicles are minivans and SUVs, which suggests that busy families just aren’t making the time for a visit to their dealership service department. When it comes time to sell these vehicles, there’s a good chance that the owners still will have never had a safety recall addressed.
That puts an extra burden on used car buyers, who might assume they only need to check for regular maintenance and any previous accidents. There’s now a 25 percent chance that a safety problem exists in a car that may show no signs of having a problem.
One of the major recalls that has likely contributed to this flurry of unresolved safety issues is the Takata airbag problem, in which defective, shrapnel-shooting inflators have been blamed for at least 11 deaths. That’s not a time bomb you want sitting behind the steering wheel of a new-to-you car.
If you haven’t checked for recalls lately on a car you own or lease, do so immediately. The NHTSA has a handy VIN search feature that will inform you of any active recalls on your automobile. If one shows up, please contact your dealer and make arrangements to have the problem fixed right away.
Also use the search feature on any used car you’re considering, even if buying from a dealer. Have the dealer get the repair done before you buy. I’d also recommend having repairs done before you buy if purchasing from a private party, just to make sure no other hidden problems are lurking beneath the veil.
Safety recalls are free to have repaired, so there’s no excuse to not have them done.
(Side note: After writing this, I thought I’d better look up my own car. Sure enough, it looks like I’ll be calling my dealer first thing in the morning.)
Have you checked your car for recalls recently?