How to avoid buying a recalled, used car that hasn't actually been fixed

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 12 2013 11:35 a.m. MST

Some used cars are sold without fixed safety recalls.

Ryan Teixeira, "ryantxr" via flickr

A new study by Carfax looked at the dangers of people buying used cars with unfixed recall repairs.

To illustrate the problem, Carfax looked at used cars for sale online and found nearly 2.1 million cars with open recalls in 2012. Florida, California and Texas had the highest number of cars for sale online that needed these repairs. More than 25 percent of the cars being offered online in Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan had unfixed recalls.

"Consumers seem to be more aware of this threat," said Larry Gamache , communications director at Carfax, in a press release, "but there's still a long way to go."

Kurtis Ming at CBS13 Sacramento, Calif., discovered the problem isn't limited to online used-car sales: "CBS13 took its hidden cameras to used dealership lots in Sacramento to find out how commonplace these open-recall cars really are. A CBS13 producer easily found a dozen recalled cars at the three used car lots randomly checked in Sacramento. We found a Honda CR-V with a potentially dangerous airbag, a Toyota 4Runner with an accelerator pedal that could get stuck, and a Chevrolet Cobalt with fuel part prone to leak — a potential fire hazard."

One used car dealer told CBS13 they get the recalls taken care of, but the station found five vehicles on that dealer's lot that had not been fixed yet.

"There's only one reason the car is under a safety recall and that's because it's unsafe," Rosemary Shahan of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety told CBS13.

Ric Romero at ABC-7 Eyewitness News found similar problems in Los Angeles: "On a used car lot in Hawthorne recently, Eyewitness News found several cars that were for sale with unfixed recalls. One Cadillac Escalade had three unfixed recalls, a Nissan Altima had four and a Chevrolet Silverado had 15."

Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety told ABC-7 the reason used car place are reluctant to get them fixed before they sell them is, "because that customer is ready to buy it today and may in fact go to another used car dealer and buy a different vehicle."

Finding out if a car needs a recall is not difficult.

People can find out if a used car or any car needs recalls by going to several free websites:

safercar.gov

recall.carfax.com

recalls.gov

autosafety.org

"Before a car changes hands, there's lots of opportunities for everyone involved to check for open recalls," Gamache at Carfax said. "Yet this data is proof that it's not happening enough. A simple online check and visit with your local dealer is all it takes to help improve public safety."

EMAIL: mdegroote@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @degroote

Facebook: facebook.com/madegroote

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