Used-car dealers keep selling vehicles despite safety recalls. We found dozens for sale.
The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
Michael Brooks, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, says dealers are putting the responsibility on shoppers who might not follow through.
“They just want to sell the car to these people and tell them there’s a recall and they need to fix it, and we know consumers are not that great at it,” Brooks says.
By Stephanie Zimmermann
November 24, 2023
Under federal law, a rental car company can’t hand a customer the keys unless all safety recalls have been repaired, but there’s no such requirement for consumers buying a used car.
Which means what’s being touted as a “certified preowned” car on a dealer’s lot could still be a vehicle that has open, unaddressed recalls for safety issues like having a known fire risk or a problem with sudden acceleration. Those used cars could even be subject to an “urgent, do not drive” recall because their airbag inflators might explode.
When you buy toys, appliances, food or pharmaceuticals, you don’t face a similar risk because those can’t be sold in the United States if they’re under a recall.
“You can’t even sell a recalled consumer product at a yard sale,” says Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies, which advocates for vehicle safety.
How widespread is the practice? To see, a Chicago Sun-Times reporter followed up on the newspaper’s 2019 investigation of open recalls and found dozens of used vehicles offered for sale on dealers’ websites and used-car listing websites over the past two months despite them being under recall for safety issues that the sellers hadn’t fixed.
And that’s perfectly legal.