Consumer Group Presses for Better Protections for Used Car Buyers

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
Takata airbags, which are now under recall, have been blamed for fatalities in otherwise survivable accidents. Photo Credit: Rahul Pugazhendi

Consumer advocates are out to stop cars with unrepaired recall defects from winding up with new owners.

Federal law bans car dealers from selling unrepaired new cars and rental agencies from selling or renting them. Now consumer activists want the feds to forbid car dealers to sell at retail used cars with unrepaired safety recall defects.

The Used Car Safety Recall Repair Act would allow the feds to fine dealers that sell unrepaired recalled used cars, even if no one has suffered damages or been harmed.

Rosemary Shahan, president of the California based nonprofit Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, said these cars are ticking time bombs.

“In the case of the Takata airbags, they’ve killed dozens of people and injured hundreds more,” said Shahan. “And as time goes on, and the vehicles get older, they’re much more prone to having this problem.”

Shahan singled out CarMax, the largest retailer of used vehicles in the nation, because they sell cars with unrepaired recalled safety defects, once they pass a 125-point safety inspection.

CarMax, in a statement, say they share “vehicle-specific open recall information in-store and online to ensure our customers know about open recalls prior to purchase” and say the current recall repair system requires manufacturers to pay for repairs at their dealerships, not via independent retailers who are their competitors.

Years ago, Shahan said, her group filed a complaint against CarMax with the Federal Trade Commission, but the FTC ruled they can keep advertising the cars as “safe” as long as they make the disclosure.

“It’s very deceptive, especially when they’re advertising that the vehicles have passed an inspection,” said Shahan. “How could it possibly pass inspection, when it has unrepaired safety recall defects?”

Shahan encouraged all prospective car buyers to check the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration website to find out whether the car is under recall, and if so, walk away.

The Used Car Safety Recall Repair Act was introduced last year but has not received a hearing or a vote.