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Could your used car be under recall without you knowing?

Most people drive a used car at some point in their lives. It could be that you got a cheap clunker for your first car as a teenager. Maybe you like to tinker with a fixer-upper. Or perhaps you simply wanted to save a little bit of money on your vehicle.

Whatever the reason, your car has a history to it. How can you be sure that it is safe to drive when you don’t know everything about it?

The salesperson may not know about a recall

There is no federal law that requires used-car dealers to check for recalls or defects in a car they sell. Because of this, you could buy a car without knowing about a potentially life-threatening issue.

Consumer Reports (CR) sent a team of “secret shoppers” to car dealerships around the country. They wanted to see whether anyone would mention recalls on their own—and what would happen if the customer brought them up.

Out of just over 800 cars that they looked at, CR found over 100 vehicles that were under recall—but only four dealers mentioned it. When asked, the other dealerships either denied the recall or claimed that it was the buyer’s responsibility to get it fixed—which is untrue.

Americans buy almost 40 million used cars every year. That number is only increasing—along with the risk of buying a dangerous car. How can you know whether your vehicle is one of them?

Recalls are easy to find out about

The federal government recalls millions of cars every year. Here are some ways you can find out about and quickly handle these issues:

  • Ask the dealer about recalls—don’t work with someone who won’t give you an honest answer
  • Research the car model you are considering to see whether it has any known recalls
  • Search your car’s vehicle identification number online to check for recalls
  • Take your car in for maintenance often
  • Get an issue fixed immediately when you hear about it—recall repairs are always free

No one would expect the car they just bought to have a life-threatening defect. If you aren’t sure about the facts that the dealership gave you, it’s easy to search for recalls online. Taking a little time to research the car you might buy can be extremely worthwhile in the long run.

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