CEO Blames ‘Broken’ System for Used Cars Sold With Open Recalls

Buying a used car might seem like a safe choice, at least financially. With new cars depreciating in value the second you drive them off the lot, many opt to purchase and drive used vehicles. The wise move can certainly save you money, but in some situations, it may sacrifice your safety; many used cars are sold to new owners with open recalls. Stopping this practice might seem like a no-brainer, but changing the system is easier said than done. Still, the United States’ recent change in administration may see renewed efforts to pass car safety policies.

Recalls exist to protect consumers and drivers

Although frequent vehicle recalls can damage a company’s reputation, they’re far from uncommon. With millions of cars on the road, some are bound to have problems. When a pattern of problems emerges, a manufacturer may issue a recall — a notification to all owners of the vehicle of the problem. Provided that the car hasn’t been on the road for too long, owners can typically go to their dealership to get the issue fixed for free. 

The severity of these recalls can vary widely. In some cases, manufacturers will spare no expense or effort to make sure that the problem is rectified in all vehicles. They’ll be persistent in their outreach and even pay for rental vehicles to serve their customers while their cars are being fixed. Other times, you may be told that your vehicle simply has a misplaced or expired sticker. 

No matter the situation, it’s always best to make your way to the dealership as opposed to fixing the issue yourself. Once you dabble in DIY repairs, your vehicle may no longer be eligible to receive manufacturer reimbursements. Ultimately, taking recalls seriously is better for your safety and your wallet. 

Many recalled vehicles are unknowingly on the road every day

Addressing your vehicle’s recalls seems like a no-brainer — so why are there an existing 16 million cars on the road with unaddressed problems? This staggering number is reported by WNBC and is indicative of an even larger issue. Many people have no idea that their cars have been recalled. 

It’s illegal for new cars to be sold with open recalls, in the interest of protecting drivers and dealerships from liability. The trouble lies with public and private used car dealers, who have no obligation to research or remedy any outstanding recalls. A myriad of factors help to somewhat justify this lack of accountability. As vehicles are sold and re-sold, the correct address for recall notifications may be lost in the shuffle. 

On top of that, AutoAp, Inc. conducted a 2014 study that identified a 30 percent margin of error in the NHTSA’s recall database. In the years that have followed, it’s said that this number has not changed — but our political administration has twice. 

A “broken” system has made the issue difficult to address 


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The tangled channels of communication between manufacturers, dealerships, and consumers have made stricter regulations on used cars nearly impossible. As AutoAp’s CEO Mark Paul wrote in Automotive News, “The vehicle recall ecosystem is broken.”

New laws about recalls on used vehicles could give dealers a whole new world of legal proceedings and hoops to jump through. Still, Paul went on to say in the same report that “the political landscape is almost certain to shift to more regulations.” 

Many are anticipating a federal statute that will increase oversight for used-vehicle repairs. Although, in the end, this may save lives and costly accidents, it will undoubtedly impact the used car market and buying process as we know it.