New motor vehicles are required by law to have any outstanding recall issues fixed before these vehicles can be sold, but the same is not true for used ones. Those buying a used car, truck, motorcycle, or other vehicles can and should then take several easy but essential steps to protect themselves. These will enable the owner to become aware of any critical safety problems that can be fixed for free through a recall. As always, it is better to do it this way rather than find out after it is too late.
Tips from experts
Experts, including the esteemed Consumer Reports, recommend the following steps:
- Registration: Make sure the vehicle’s registration is up to date with the correct mailing address – manufacturers use a state’s registration to create mailing lists for recalls.
- Email alerts: Buyers can subscribe to email alerts from the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency. Then they send a notice if anything comes up for the make and model year of the vehicle. While short on specifics, some basic research should provide instructions for taking action.
- Carfax: The company provides a free alert service (through email or a smartphone app) whenever a recall is announced. The owner need only use the make, model year and license plate as opposed to finding the VIN and using that. Just registering provides any current unresolved recalls in effect.
- Manufacturers: Certain manufacturers allow owners to register their vehicle online, but not all are good about directly notifying those who register.
- The state: States are also becoming more proactive about letting residents know if there are issues with their registered vehicle.
Not all cars and trucks are fixed
Some may be surprised to realize that there are hundreds of recalls issued each year, including 813 in 2017 that impacted 30.7 million vehicles. According to the NHTSA, only about 66% of recalled vehicles ever get fixed.
Recall issues can be minor or life-threatening, but either way, owners have a right to a product that is safe and functions properly. While businesses or individuals selling a vehicle may tell buyers otherwise, lemon laws here in California provide protection. If there is a dispute with someone who sold the vehicle, a lemon law attorney can be a tremendous help in getting the matter resolved.