Vehicle recalls are a nuisance for car dealers and a worry for car owners. They are relatively uncommon (although not as uncommon as you might think) but they change the rules a little when it comes time to sell.
The question is, are you required to fix recalls before you sell your car?
How Common are Vehicle Recalls?
Over 50 million cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks are recalled every year in the United States and that number seems to be rising. In fact, in recent years it has topped 70 million due to major issues with manufacturers of products like airbags.
Most of them are the result of safety recalls, which mean that the manufacturer or independent bodies have found issues with the car's safety features.
Safety recalls could suggest that there is a serious and potentially life-threatening issue with the car. More often than not, however, car recalls are the result of minor safety concerns. It's a case of "the risk is higher" as opposed to "you're going to die", but it's still something that needs to be considered and safety recalls play an essential role in keeping the US car market safe.
Do I Need to Fix if There is an Open Recall?
As a private seller, you are allowed to sell a used car with an open recall. Used cars with open recalls are very common, and the onus is not on the seller to know about them and to deal with them.
If your car has an open recall and you can get it fixed for free, you could consider doing so. However, you are not obligated to take those steps and used cars are regularly sold with open recalls.
Do Car Dealers Need to Fix if There are Safety Recalls?
Car dealerships are subject to the same rules as private sellers when it comes to open recalls. The dealership does not need to get the issues fixed and it's not illegal for them to sell a used car to you if there is an open recall.
You can do the research yourself, of course, and if you discover that there has been a safety recall, you can learn more about it and ask that it be fixed. If not, you could use it to negotiate a cheaper price, although there is no guarantee that this will work.
The rules are also very different for new car dealers. It is illegal for a car dealership to sell a new vehicle with an open recall.
In such cases, they usually just order the replacement parts and make the required fix, with the car sitting on their lot throughout that time. They will take a hit in the process, as the car could be on the lot for several weeks and may depreciate in that time. However, it's a necessary evil, as the alternative is to break the law and do something that could potentially lead to a hefty lawsuit.
What are the Most and Least Recalled Cars?
Over the last decade or so, some of America's most popular cars have also been the least recalled ones. The Honda Civic is a prime example. You will find it near the top of many "best used car" lists (we have even included it on a few of ours) and it has had very few safety recalls.
The same is true for the equally popular Toyota Corolla and the Honda CR-V.
On the other side, you will find cars from Mercedes-Benz and BMW, as well as Dodge. The Toyota 4Runner is also on that list, even though Toyota cars have a very high reliability rating.