Unlike new cars, used cars do not fall under federal regulations requiring sellers to disclose safety recalls or fix dangerous defects before selling the cars to consumers.
A recent New York Times investigation at a used car auction discovered that some of the vehicles up for grabs had faulty Takata airbags and ignition switches that spontaneously turn off – defects that have caused many injuries and deaths in and outside of the U.S.
Unsuspecting consumers, looking for inexpensive vehicles, buy the cars unaware of the potential hazards. Second, third and even forth owners of cars are at risk of purchasing a dangerous vehicle because sellers of used cars do not have to fix problems related to recalls or even disclose a recall.
Efforts to introduce federal regulations have failed and, although some state and local regulations offer consumers some protections, they are typically enforced only after someone has been hurt, resulting in personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits.
With 38 million used cars sold in 2015 alone, the incidences of injury are likely to increase. Purchasers of used vehicles are urged to check their VIN number against the online government database, calling the government safety hotline (1-888-327-4236) or check for recalls from the car’s maker.
Source: New York Times, “Used Cars Slip Past Recall Safeguards, Putting Drivers in Danger”, by RACHEL ABRAMS and HIROKO TABUCHI, October 26, 2016.