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One essential part of owning a car is recall repairs. Be glad if you are one of the lucky car owners who never have to endure a recall. But don’t fret either if you need to face one. Recalls help ensure that any safety issues are addressed and resolved before there is harm to you or your family. However, many car owners wonder if they will get a loaner car during the recall repair. Or will they be left stranded while they wait? The answer isn’t as straightforward as one would hope. 

Recall repairs can be done quickly or take a long time

A person potentially performing a recall repair on a white car.
Mechanical repair | Getty Images

According to Consumer Reports, tens of millions of cars are recalled yearly to correct faults. These faults can range from software problems to even leaks that can lead to a fire. Some recalls can involve millions of cars, and some only affect a handful. Either way, all recalls are very important because the recalled vehicles could pose a safety risk to anyone on the road. 

Sometimes car owners can fix the recall themselves through an over-the-air software update from the automaker. These repairs are similar to when you need to update your phone or computer. If the repair is more physical, you must take your car to the car dealership once the recall fix has been announced. 

Most recalls are quick and easy for the dealership to fix, and you can get your car back the same day. Other recalls are more involved. 

There have been instances when the initial fix did not work well enough, and the cars needed to be brought back to the dealer again and even multiple times. Some cases have proven so involved that the dealer must send the recalled car back to the factory for repairs. That can take several weeks. So, when you drop off your car for repairs, be sure to ask how long you can expect your car to be gone.

Is a loaner car guaranteed?

If your car will be in repairs for a significant amount of time, it is natural to wonder if you will get to use a loaner car from the dealership. 

Before you ask about the loaner car, remember that automakers and dealerships do not owe car owners a loaner. All they must provide is a timely and safe repair of the recalled cars. 

While technically, the automaker is not required to provide a loaner car. Many will still offer this service. Dealers may also choose to provide loaners. So, it doesn’t hurt to ask. 

Remember that most dealerships offer loaner cars to loyal customers, if they offer them at all, according to Motor and Wheels. Take your recalled car to the dealership where you bought it for the best chance of getting a loaner car while you wait. You are probably out of luck if you bought the car from a private seller. 

However, also keep in mind that most recalls can be fixed within a few hours, which makes a loaner car unnecessary in most cases. 

How to check for recalls  

Owners of recalled cars can be notified through the mail, a news release or a notification from the Consumer Reports recall tracker. 

You can also take the proactive approach by checking your car on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recalls website.

To check for a recall on your car, you will need your VIN. You can find this number on the lower left of your car’s windshield, your registration card, and possibly your insurance card. 

Plug your VIN into the NHTSA recalls website, and it will show if your car is an unrepaired car affected by a safety recall in the last 15 calendar years. You will see a “0 Unrepaired recalls associated with this VIN” if there are no recalls for your car. 

Remember that recalls can take some time to show up on the database after the official announcement of the need for a recall. If you hear an announcement that involves your car, check the NHTSA recalls page regularly for your VIN to show up. 


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