Recalls, like grade school progress reports, are things we’re supposed to pay attention to. Some recalls are as insignificant as, say, the incorrect printing on a spare tire. Others can kill you. Is there a difference, that is, should people deal with the hassle of bringing their cars into the dealer for a new label on their spare tire? Absolutely, says Carfax: it found that over 2.7 million used cars are still being sold with safety defects that were never fixed.
The used car ranking site conducted a study, and found that through ignorance or simply not hearing about it, car owners are blowing past their recalls and selling their cars to equally unsuspecting buyers. Specifically, California, Florida and Texas lead the nation with the most used cars for sale with open recalls, with more than 100,000 cars on the market last year. And in an extreme case of ignoring a recall, Carfax cites a man who buys a van for work, which then bursts into flames.
“We’re making a lot of progress, but there are still too many open recalls out there,” said Larry Gamache, communications director at Carfax. “Many of these cars change hands without the buyer ever knowing a recall exists, increasing the safety risks both to passengers in the car and others on the road.”
So if you’re buying a used car, what can you do to see if your car has had its recall service done? You can search the database of the US Department of Transportation, which lists every recall by manufacturer and year. Or, if you’re buying from a dealer, you can run the VIN through their database and ask for a copy of the car’s service record. If your dealership is of the “all sales are final” variety, there are many sites that can check your car’s VIN, including AutoCheck—and yes, Carfax. Finally, popular car models will have highly-publicized recalls—it’s safe to say that no used Toyota from the last decade will ever go unscrutinized again. It’s not an easy thing to gamble. With recalls, it seems, any safety risk is one of those “might as well fix it” things—best to err on the side of caution rather than see your car on fire.