Not everyone looking for a replacement vehicle rushes off to a dealership to buy a brand new car hot off the assembly line. Some people can’t afford a new car while others simply prefer to save money by buying a used vehicle with just a couple of years of wear. New cars lose value the moment you drive them off the lot anyway, right? So there’s no harm in looking around for the perfect used car that will last you for years to come and cost you thousands less.

According to a new report, that actually might not be the safest bet right now. If you’ve owned a car over the last two decades, you’re likely very familiar with vehicle safety recalls. They feel like they’re issued almost weekly at this point. Any vehicle that has been noticed for recall is categorized as unsafe to drive until the safety issue has been remedied by the dealership or an authorized repair shop. The Takata airbag recall was initiated because of severe injuries and deaths caused by the exploding airbags, prompting product liability lawsuits.

In October, the United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) issued a report on a used car resale company, AutoNation, finding that they have been selling used cars that have outstanding safety recalls. Unfortunately for consumers, federal law allows dealers to advertise used cars as “certified” provided they disclose any recalls yet to be repaired.

All used car dealers are not created equal

AutoNation’s website provides a “Check for safety recalls” feature hidden on their used car listings under the “Specifications” tab. The link auto-populates the VIN in the search box to determine whether the vehicle you are looking at is being sold in safe condition. A search of a 2012 Hyundai Sonata being sold through AutoNation shows three serious safety recalls still outstanding on the vehicle:

  • Engine failure causing sudden stops that risk crash
  • Faulty seat belts posing risk of serious injury in a crash
  • The airbag control unit may short circuit in a crash preventing airbags from deploying

A similar check on another 2012 Hyundai Sonata being sold by CarMax showed all recalls have been fixed, with their recall link clearly displayed in a highlighted box on the listing.

Take control of your safety when used car dealers won’t

Alabamans have access to an abundance of these vehicles with approximately 30 AutoNation stores in Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama within a 200 mile radius of almost any Alabama city. Three stores are seated right in Mobile. In 2016, there were 1,154,354 open recalls on used cars in Alabama.

If you have purchased a vehicle from AutoNation, or any other used car dealer, here’s what you can do to protect yourself:

Locate the vehicle identification number (VIN) and enter it into the search box to see whether there have been any recalls issued for your vehicle. According to, there are three recall statuses that may appear when you check your VIN:

  • Recall INCOMPLETE, which means the work has not been done.
  • Recall INCOMPLETE – Remedy Not Yet Available, where a known problem exists but the manufacturer hasn’t determined a solution yet.
  • Number of Open Recalls: 0, which means that any recalls that were connected to your VIN have already been repaired.

Contact the nearest dealership service department for your vehicle make (Toyota, Hyundai, Audi, etc.) if your search results show that recalls have been issued, and ask them to verify the recalls that need to be performed on your vehicle.

Make an appointment as soon as possible to have all outstanding recall work performed.

You should be able to trust that a used car will meet basic safety standards at a minimum, especially when the safety issue stems from a recall that could have been corrected at no cost. If you have been injured or your loved one was killed due to a defective vehicle part that was recalled but never repaired, you may be entitled to compensation. The determined Alabama product liability lawyers at Mezrano Law Firm believe in fighting for the rights of consumers who have been needlessly harmed by defective products.

Speak with one of our highly experienced attorneys by calling 205-206-6300 to schedule your free case evaluation, or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact page. We take pride in serving the citizens of the State of Alabama with offices located in Birmingham, Mobile, Florence, Tuscaloosa, Gadsden, and Montgomery for your convenience.