If you buy a used car from a car dealer, you assume they've put it up on a rack and checked it out for major problems.
You also assume they have taken care of any major recall issues, right? Not necessarily.
One woman learned how you can easily end up driving a car that's been recalled, but not repaired. And it's a common problem, according to a new June 2011 report from the GAO, the Government Accountability Office.
Looked Perfect on the Outside
Tracy Perry says the Hyundai she bought used last year looked perfect on the outside.
But underneath, visible only if you jacked up the car, Perry says the front subframe was rusting away. Within a few months, the car began having handling issues.
"It was vibrating real bad, when you hit the brakes it was vibrating," said Perry.
She called the dealer who sold her the car, and learned there had been a recall on the subframe, but it had never been fixed.
Lucklily, she didn't have to pay hundreds of dollars for a repair. But that still upset this mom of two teens.
"I have a teenager daughter, and if she was driving and the frame broke it would have been an instant wreck," Perry said.
No Feder al Law
So I contacted the dealer, and a spokeswoman told me that used car dealers are not required by any federal law to check for recalls.
However, the GAO is now proposing a new federal law that would require all dealers to check used cars for recalls, and have any outstanding recall fixed. There would be no cost to them, as the manufacturer would pay for the repair.
Until then, it's really up the customer to check.
How to Check for Recalls
You can find a list of recalls affecting your car on the government's website, NHTSA.gov. (Click here)
An easier solution is to take your car to an official dealer for that make, such as a nearby Ford dealer for a Ford, or a GM dealer for a used Chevy.
They can put your VIN number into the manufactures database, and alert you to outstanding recalls....like Tracy's. The manufacturer should also have in its database whether your car had the recalls fixed.
Of course, your best bet when buying a used car, especially an older one that doesn't have a bumper to bumper warranty, is to pay a mechanic to inspect it.
That way you are alerted to potential problems, and you don't waste your money.
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