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Is It Illegal to Sell Used Vehicles With Open Recalls?

Even cars with the highest crash-test scores and advanced safety features are prone to mechanical issues. As you shop for a new or used vehicle, it may be worth it to check sites like Consumer Reports and CarComplaints first. These will also list any recalls issued for the vehicle.

Car recalls are at an all-time high. According to CarFax, at least one in six vehicles on a dealership lot has an open recall. Considering the possible safety concerns, is it legal to sell a car with an open recall?

Yes, you can sell a used car with an open recall

Both dealerships and private sellers are allowed to sell used cars with open recalls. They are not obligated to have the cars fixed themselves, but this is not an issue because the car’s new owner would be able to get the repairs for free.

However, it is illegal for a dealership to sell a new car with an open recall. This is to protect the dealers from being held liable for any accidents. It also saves them money.

Since it can take up to 60 days or more for replacement parts to arrive, it may take up to a few months to repair every affected car. This means the new car is just sitting in the lot as its value decreases.

Recent vehicle recalls

Recalls can be issued for any reason, whether it’s for something as severe as airbags with pieces of shrapnel or as strange as a nest of spiders living in the A/C vents. If it’s a problem that may interfere with the driver’s safety, the car will probably be recalled.

There have already been quite a few recalls this year alone. The 2019 Ram 1500 has had 14 recalls already concerning a leaky fuel tank, non-deploying airbags, and other electrical issues. GM also had to issue a large recall over a brake malfunction, which affected about 3.4 million SUVs and trucks.

Which automaker has had the most recalls?

Currently, GM holds the record with 213 recalls affecting over 54 million vehicles. However, we should note that GM sells a larger variety of cars than luxury brands like Mercedes-Benz and BMW. GM produces over 40 kinds of cars, while Mercedes-Benz only has 13 models.

Because of this, Mercedes-Benz cars are considered to be more dangerous because of the relatively high volume of affected cars as well as the severity of the issues. Nearly all of its recalls have been for hazardous problems, like faulty airbags and dysfunctional child-seat connectors.

How to check for recalls

Luckily, it’s easy to check for recalls issued for a car you want. All you need to do is run the car’s VIN through a website like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

If you find that the car has been recalled, you can ask the dealership or private seller for a vehicle history report to see if the issue has been fixed.

What should you do if your vehicle is affected?

2009 Ford F-150 pickup trucks sit in a lot outside of their Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Michigan
2009 Ford F-150 pickup trucks sit in a lot outside of their Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Michigan | Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images

If you find that the car you want to buy or a vehicle you already own has a recall, you should have it fixed as soon as possible. It could be dangerous to drive the car if it has been recalled for reasons like seatbelt malfunctions or a faulty airbag.

In most cases, the repairs will be made free of charge for up to 10 years after the vehicle’s original sale. If you buy the used car from a dealership, they may be able to have the car fixed before you take it home.