MIAMI (CBSMiami) — You like the way it looks and even haggle on the price, but that used car that you’re thinking of buying may have a hidden hazard that can’t find under the hood and no one is required to tell you.
A charred, burnt out shell is all that remains of the used van Bob Knotts bought. The van burst into flames while parked right in his driveway. So what caused the fire? It turns out that Bob’s van was one of 98,000 recalled because of a wiring defect that could cause a fire.
Bob said the used car dealer he bought the van from never told him it had an unfixed recall. According to Knotts, “The whole thing was a complete loss for me.”
In fact a study by Carfax found more than 2.7 million used vehicles listed for sale online last year had at least one unfixed safety recall issued by the federal government.
The federal government doesn’t recall cars unless a defect could cause a serious risk to passengers in a car or others on the road.
Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety said, “They’re all serious. They could cost you your life. They could cause a crash.”
Undercover video from used car lots shows vehicles for sale, that according to car manufacturer websites, have unfixed recalls.
One used SUV had an unrepaired defect which could make the engine stall and cause a crash, according to the formal recall notice.
Another used car had an engine that could shut off while the vehicle is being driven.
“They don’t want to take them off their lot to get them fixed before they sell them because that customer is ready to buy it today and may in fact go to another used car dealer and buy a different vehicle,” said Ditlow.
There’s no federal law requiring that used car dealers, or private sellers to tell buyers about unfixed recalls.
The two main used car dealer trade associations had no comment but the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association said it, “encourages used vehicle dealers to repair the open-recall before selling the vehicle to a customer and at a minimum disclose it.”
Experts like Jeannie Fallon of Edmunds.com said some dealers do go the extra mile. “Many dealers will bring a used car up to speed on its recalls before they sell it and actually if they do it’s a sign they take really good care of their cars and really good care of their customers.”
The other used car dealer association said the onus is on vehicle owners and used car buyers to get recalls fixed.
Bob Knotts said now he wants to warn others since no one is required to warn you, be sure to check for open recalls yourself.
“What happened to me, it could have happened to someone else,” warned Knotts.
If you have your car’s vehicle identification number, or VIN, you can simply pick up the phone and call your local dealer to see if you have any unfixed recalls.
There are also several online websites available to enter your VIN and check for open recalls online.
And remember, dealers repair official safety recalls for free.
- Carfax: http://recall.carfax.com
- Center for Auto Safety: www.autosafety.org/campaigns/14
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website allows you to sign-up for automatic notifications of recalls affecting your vehicles, as well pertinent recalls of tires and child safety seats: www.safercar.gov