Buying recalled car

Automotive recalls have become a constant fixture in the news, and it seems no company is immune from new recall announcements. The presence of new recalls might frighten some consumers, but these announcements actually enhance the safety of all the cars on the road. A recalled vehicle that has not been fixed is a danger to its owners and other motorists, so recalls should provide confidence to drivers.

Unfortunately, recalls don't result in safety benefits if people fail to bring their cars to a participating dealership and get the problem fixed. While recalls have been a top news story for nearly a year, many people still haven't gotten their recalled vehicles repaired. That creates serious driver safety issues and major problems for people who want to buy a used car that has been repaired in accordance with any outstanding recalls.

Regulators step in
The widespread lack of recall compliance concerns many government regulators, and Mark Rosekind, head of the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency, recently announced a plan to crack down on recalls that weren't getting widespread customer participation, according to The New York Times.

"We're very displeased with what's going on," said Rosekind. "The numbers are horribly low, and that translates into lives at risk."

The numbers Rosekind referred to are the participation numbers supplied by car manufacturers that have issued recalls. A high participation number indicates that many of the affected cars have been fixed, and a low number reveals many unsafe cars remain on the road. In an example supplied by Rosekind, fewer than 30 percent of 1.56 million recalled Jeep models have been fixed since the recall was announced last year.

The Agency hopes to eliminate that type of lackluster participation by working with carmakers to improve participation. Overall completion of recall programs currently sits at an average of 70 percent. These efforts should enhance automakers' efforts to reveal recalls and build customer awareness that leads to repairs.

How to protect yourself
While it's reassuring to hear that federal agencies will increase their focus on recalls and the execution of necessary repairs, car​ buyers may wonder how they can guarantee used vehicles they purchase are up to date with any outstanding recalls. Taking a test drive and buying car insurance are necessary steps in the vehicle buying process, and checking for recalls is an equally important element in today's climate.

Currently, car dealerships are under no obligation to fix recalled used cars that are for sale on their lots, according to The Detroit News. While dealers are legally required to perform recall repairs on new vehicles before sale, used cars fall into a gray area. Some lawmakers are currently trying to change these rules, but under the current guidelines, buyers need to be cognizant of recalls before they purchase a used vehicle.

Luckily, it is possible to find out if a car has unrepaired recalls, though the process can be confusing. Buyers can use the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) that is included on every car to identify the specific model information for the car they are interested in, according to The Washington Times. Once they have the VIN, buyers can quickly learn about any recalls that have been listed for that car, but it will still be unclear whether or not the specific model they want to purchase was repaired. To get that information, buyers can turn to a vehicle history report or speak with the dealer. While dealers are not under an obligation to fix the vehicle, they should be able to check the individual recalled components and assess whether or not they have been replaced.

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