Used car dealers are selling dangerous vehicles with unrepaired recalls

November 5, 2019

When you buy a used car, you never truly know what you’re going to get. A car that’s advertised as being in “mint condition” could have had multiple owners. It could have been involved in a crash or damaged in a flood. It could have also had an open recall that was never addressed.

Probe finds used car dealer sells defective cars at each of its locations

A recent report released by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund and Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety surveyed more than 2,400 used cars sold online during July and August of this year. The study focused exclusively on AutoNation — which proclaims to be “America’s Largest Auto Retailer” — and investigated 28 of its locations in 16 major cities across the United States.

The study found that:

  • Approximately 285 out of 2,429 of the vehicles sold had unrepaired safety recalls, including Takata airbag and General Motor ignition switch defects
  • Forty-seven unrepaired safety recalls didn’t have a remedy available at the time of analysis, requiring consumers to have to wait months for repairs.
  • Every one of AutoNation’s locations was found to be selling cars with unrepaired safety recalls.
  • Many vehicles are sold at dealerships with service shops capable of making in-house repairs.

Whether a used car is sold by a dealership or privately by an individual, sellers often fail to mention prior or current vehicle defects. If a used car has an open recall due to a safety defect, there are currently no federal laws prohibiting a dealer from selling it. The laws only apply to new cars.

What is currently being done to address safety recalls on used cars?

Illinois law, however, requires that used car dealers provide a limited powertrain warranty for the first 15 days or 500 miles (whichever comes first). Prior to the law taking effect on July 1, 2017, used car dealers could sell any car “as is” without a warranty. This law, however, only applies to the functionality of a vehicle rather than open safety recalls.

Lawmakers have proposed legislation that could require used car dealers to fix all open recalls before selling a vehicle, according to the Chicago Sun Times. The Used Car Safety Recall Repair Act was introduced by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts). The bill has garnered support from Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, the Center for Auto Safety, the Consumer Federation of America and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

In the meantime, it’s important that used car buyers check for open recalls. This can be done by searching the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) at and selecting an authorized dealership to have it fixed free of charge. The VIN can be located where the dashboard meets the windshield on the driver’s side of a car.

If you were injured in a crash due to a safety defect after purchasing a used car, you may be entitled to compensation. The Chicago car accident attorneys at Coplan + Crane have the experience and legal knowledge to investigate complex cases involving negligence. If a dealer sold you a car with an unrepaired safety recall, and you sustained injuries as a result, we can gather solid evidence to help you build a strong legal claim.

Don’t wait to schedule your free case evaluation with our legal team. Contact us online today to get started.