Will a Dealership Buy Back a Vehicle With an Unfixable Defect?

A vehicle recall is just a part of car ownership. Automakers issue hundreds of recalls that affect millions of cars every year. Often, the recalls are for minor issues that can be fixed relatively easily, but other times, it’s entirely possible that a recall has no fix. Cars with an unfixable problem can be a huge hassle for owners, so here’s a look at whether or not a dealership will buy back a vehicle with an unfixable defect.

Why a vehicle may be recalled despite an unfixable defect at the time

A person inspecting a vehicle at a car dealership, potentially with an unfixable defect.
Inspecting car at dealership | Samsul Said via Getty Images

According to Consumer Reports, there are many reasons why a vehicle can be recalled despite there not being a fix at the time. The main one is because recalls exist to protect the safety of consumers, so even if a problem can’t be fixed, consumers should still be aware of it. Other than that, a common reason is simply that automakers aren’t sure why a problem is happening. They just know it is happening. 

The supply chain issues that have impacted the entire world also play a role in recall fixes. If it’s difficult for an automaker to get the necessary repair or replacement parts. Drivers will have to wait until those supply chain issues clear up. Meanwhile, drivers are left with a car they know has a flaw, and there aren’t many good options going forward. 

It is possible to get a dealership to repurchase your car if there is an unfixable defect

One potential good option is simply having the dealership repurchase the car. However, this is not an option for everyone. Minor issues that don’t affect the car’s operation or safety will not likely be enough to warrant a buyback from a dealership. As Consumer Reports wrote, major defects that require owners to make major changes to how they drive may be enough to warrant a buyback from a dealership.

This will vary on a case-by-case basis, depending on the dealership in question. What’s true regardless is that a dealer won’t buy your defective car back if you don’t ask. This is why it’s essential to talk to the dealer first. In some instances, it’s also possible that the dealer and the automaker will compensate folks with a temporary replacement vehicle. 

Cars that have a significant defect may also qualify as a lemon. In a lot of states, automakers are required to buy back lemons. However, not all recalled cars with an unfixable issue are lemons, so those laws may not always apply. 

Things may get complicated, though, and lawyers can get involved

Since lemon laws are laws, many lawyers specialize in that area of the law, and they can advocate for folks who may have a lemon. If you believe your car can qualify under your state’s lemon laws, it may be worthwhile to explore your legal options. Once again, the specific laws will vary state by state, so it may be helpful to research your state’s lemon laws before considering hiring an attorney. 

As Consumer Reports wrote, the good news is that many attorneys who take up these cases won’t charge you upfront. They will charge you at the end of a lawsuit. Sometimes there won’t even be a lawsuit, as hiring a lawyer can be enough to pressure the dealer or the automaker to settle with you. Additionally, owners can complain to the NHTSA, putting additional pressure on the automaker to fix the issue.

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