Experts caution many used cars for sale have open safety recalls

If you're in the market for a used car, there's an important reminder to check for recalls that could impact your safety
April 5, 2014 6:12:10 AM PDT
A warning for consumers who have recently purchased a used vehicle -- a recent study shows that more than 3.5 million cars listed for sale online last year had open safety recalls. And the state leading the nation wasTexas, with more than 300,000.

Melissa McCown says her sister is all too familiar with open recalls, after her car had trouble starting.

"She was giving it to her son," McCown said. "Then finally found out there was a recall on it that was keeping it from starting. And the dealer didn't fix it before they sold it to her."

Chris Basso with CarFax explained, "Thirty percent of recalled cars don't get fixed. So, if you're looking for a used car, it's something that is imperative to look for right now."

Basso says ignoring or not knowing about open recalls can impact a vehicle's safety, performance and resale value.

"The problems that can occur are fires, crashes, inadvertent air bag deployments. Real safety issues that can put you and your family at risk, as well as others on the road," Basso said.

We found a few examples online that are being sold locally. A Chevy Cobolt has an open recall for an ignition switch replacement. If not addressed, the key could unintentionally move or switch to the "accessory" or "off" position, turning off the engine and most of the electrical components on the vehicle.

Also, a Nissan Pathfinder has an open recall to repair an ECM relay. It's a problem that could lead to the possibility of stalling at low engine speeds.

Basso says it's easy to tell if the car you purchased or the one you're about to buy has an open recall.

"Go to and start your search there," he advised. "Get a free CarFax report so you'll know right away if the car you want to buy has an open recall, and you can do something about it."

Other sites like can let you know if there's an open recall on your vehicle as well. Basso tells us by shopping at an authorized CarFax dealership, chances are they'll rectify the recall before it hits their lot.

Dain Crow with McRee Ford said, "It's an integral part of what we do, as a dealership and the service we provide to our customers. Making sure our customers drive out safe is job number one."

In most cases, safety recalls are repaired for free by the dealership. Also, experts tell us it's always important to have a mechanic check out the vehicle before you purchase it. They can usually spot things most consumers cannot.

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