Used Car Buyers,“Beware!”

Shopping for a used car or truck? You probably assume that the dealer will have fixed any recalled parts and that it’s safe to drive off the lot. If that’s what you think, you’re probably wrong.

Already in 2014, 39.85 million vehicles have been recalled. How many of those do you think are sitting on used-car lots? And the dealer is not required to fix a recall defect on a used car before selling it. In fact, they don’t even have to tell you about the outstanding recall. Federal law prohibits auto dealers from selling new cars that are under a safety recall, but there is no similar law to protect used car buyers.

This is why nearly a dozen consumer safety groups have filed a petition with the Federal Trade Commission urging the FTC to investigate and take enforcement action against CarMax, the used-car superstore chain. The groups allege that CarMax uses deceptive advertising and sales practices when it characterizes its used vehicles as “CarMax Quality Certified” and assures consumers that each used vehicle has passed a rigorous inspection. Rosemary Shahan, President of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS), said, “CarMax is playing recalled used car roulette with its customers’ lives.”

CarMax has responded to the petition by stating that it “carefully advises its customers to register their vehicles with its manufacturer as soon as they purchase the vehicle so they can be apprised of any future recalls.” As to existing recalls, CarMax pointed out that “manufacturers do not permit independent auto dealers like CarMax to repair recalls.” What they failed to acknowledge is that CarMax can have recalled cars repaired free of charge by authorized franchised car dealers . . . and then sell them. A NHTSA rule will take effect August 14 requiring all auto manufacturers who produce more than 25,000 vehicles a year to provide free, publicly accessible, VIN-searchable safety recall data on their own Websites, updated at least every seven days. Thus, CarMax and every other used-car dealer will find it even easier to check the safety recall status of their vehicles.

Here is what happened to Clarence and Angela Davidson, a California couple who bought a used 2010 Dodge Ram from the CarMax store in Irvine, CA, just two months ago. A short time after the purchase, the Davidsons contacted Chrysler because they wanted to add a feature to the truck. That’s when they were told that the truck had a serious safety defect and was under a federal safety recall. Chrysler had made the recall in 2013 because the rear axle pinion nut could come loose, causing a crash without warning. The Davidsons tried to return the truck to CarMax, but they were told that basically they were out of luck and they were responsible for getting it repaired. The couple then took the truck to a Chrysler dealership to have the safety recall repairs performed. A few days later, on May 30, when the Davidsons were riding in the Mojave Desert with their 12-year-old daughter in the back seat of the cab, the truck fell apart and caught on fire. Clarence pulled the girl out of the back seat just seconds before the entire truck exploded into flames, starting a fire that burned several acres and closing the highway for about four hours. We don’t know yet whether the accident was caused by a part under recall, but we do know that CarMax sold these folks a vehicle that was unsafe.

Currently, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act prohibits new car dealers from selling recalled vehicles without first fixing the safety defects, but it does not hold used-car dealers to the same standard. In a June 24 letter to the FTC, Sen. Charles E. Schumer said if the FTC does not act to prevent used car dealers from selling defective vehicles, he will take legislative action to address this issue.

As the Senator said, “used cars with a safety recall shouldn’t roll one inch off the lot.”

If you’re shopping for a used car or truck, check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of any used vehicle you are considering BEFORE you agree to anything. Look on the manufacturer’s website or call a local dealer and provide them with the VIN. They can give you recall information that could save your life.

If a defective vehicle has caused an injury or death in your family, call the South Carolina personal injury lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm – (803) 454-1200. We’ve been securing justice for hardworking people and families since 1959, and we don’t believe any merchant should play Russian Roulette with your loved ones’ lives.