• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Check for open recalls when used-car shopping

October 19, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Auto recalls are on pace to top 20 million vehicles this year, but what is more alarming is that as many as one in three recalled cars go unfixed. Many of those cars are unsafe and are being sold on used car lots to unsuspecting buyers.There's no shortage of used car lots in Southern California where the salesman is more than happy to sell you a car.

But chances are one very important bit of information just might be left out of the sales pitch: open recalls, which are vehicle recalls that have never been fixed.

"There are literally millions of vehicles on the road today with open recalls and one of the most alarming things is the number of these recalls that don't actually get fixed," said Larry Gamache, communications director of Carfax.com.

Gamache says about 30 percent of all recalled vehicles are not fixed by their owners, and many of them end up on used car lots. I found that to be true at several lots in the city.

In fact, at one lot on Hawthorne Boulevard in Inglewood, I ran the vehicle identification number (VIN) of several cars for sale there through Carfax.com.

I found a Cadillac Escalade with three open recalls, a Nissan Altima with four, and a Silverado pickup truck with 15 open recalls -- seven vehicles in all with potentially dangerous open recalls.

"There is only one reason for a manufacturer to issue a recall and that's because there is a safety concern on the car," said Gamache.

One Volvo XC 90 SUV had five open recalls, including the seatbelts, the fuel pump, and even more importantly, the steering.

So I talked to the manager of one of the dealerships I went to, Ted Hedjazi.

"When you sell them the car, do you tell them that they have open recalls?"

"If we know that, we do that," said Hedjazi.

There is no law that says a dealer must disclose any recalls and it's virtually impossible for dealers to get the millions of cars fixed.

"It's a lot of work and time and expenses," said Hedjazi.

So it's buyer beware. Before a consumer buys a car they need to ask about any recalls. Also, they should get a vehicle history report making sure that it includes recalls.

Hedjazi didn't know anything about recalls on the vehicles on his lot until I told him.

He says he uses a vehicle history website called AutoCheck by Experian, which doesn't include vehicle recalls.

For free, both Carfax.com and the auto manufacturer websites will let you know about open recalls if you have the VIN for the car.

Also good news: Vehicles with open recalls will be fixed at no cost to the owner.

"All they have to do is bring their vehicle to the dealership. They'll check the vehicle identification number. If it's subject to an open recall by a manufacturer they'll fix that open recall issue for free," said Gamache.


Load Comments