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Do You Need to Think About Recalls When Buying a Used Car?

By: Allan M. Siegel

Yes, for years used car dealers have been getting away with selling unsafe cars. Currently, most used car dealers are under no obligation to fix safety defects that are recalled by the manufacturer. Many dealers are also under no duty to inform the buyers of these defects. This is a major loophole in national vehicle safety regulations. Congress has attempted to pass stricter regulations, but its efforts have been blocked by lobbyists for the dealers who claim that stricter rules would result in unduly burdensome costs. Thankfully, some jurisdictions are not sitting by idly waiting for Congress to act. New York City has just passed new regulations requiring used car dealers to make all recall repairs before the vehicle may be sold in the city.

Used Car Buying

The commissioner for New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs, Julie Menin, says, "We believe very strongly that this is a life-and-death matter." On the other hand, Fred Donnelly, president of the New York Independent Automobile Dealers Association, says, "When do we stop babysitting the consumer?" Mr. Donnelly further believes that the city's laws are too strict already for dealers, and that the city should focus on the illegal sale of cars on Craigslist. However, the used car dealers are not even required to make the repairs themselves. They can take the vehicles to a dealership associated with the original manufacturer to have the repairs done for free.

Use car dealers' reluctance to close the loophole in these vehicle safety regulations is yet another prime example of companies putting their profits first much, in the same way that GM did when they covered up their ignition switch defect for over a decade. It was plaintiff's trial lawyers who helped expose the GM cover up, and at CSCS we also believe that remedying defects should extend to used car dealers.