Texas Ranks First in Used Cars Sold With Unfixed Safety Recalls: Carfax

No law exists that requires unfixed recalls be repaired before vehicles are sold

Texas ranks first nationally for the number of used cars for sale online with safety recalls that were never repaired, according to new research from Carfax. 

Carfax, which collects vehicle history information from 34,000 data sources, said that in 2013 more than 3.5 million used cars were for sale online nationwide with unrepaired safety recalls. In Texas, that translated to more than 300,000 used cars or, about one out of every nine.

“Recalls are extremely common.  There are millions of cars that are recalled every year.  And unfortunately, as car buyers, we don’t check for recalls because we’re concerned about other things.  We’re concerned about the maintenance, how many owners a car has had, has it been in any accidents,” said Chris Basso, spokesman for Carfax. “Recalls unfortunately aren’t at the top of our list for concerns, but our data shows that it has to be a concern for consumers because chances are you’re going to end up buying a car or at least coming across a car that you want to buy that has an open recall.”

No Texas or federal law requires used car dealers, or individuals, fix an open recall before resale.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does not “have the legal authority to require used car dealers or individual consumers to have recalled vehicles fixed before resale,” the agency told the NBC 5 Investigates Consumer Unit.

“It’s incumbent upon everyone in the car-buying process to know and understand the recall status of a vehicle before its sold,” said Bailey Wood, spokesman for the National Automobile Dealers Association.

The National Independent Automobile Dealer Association, a trade organization representing independent car dealers, also told NBC 5's Consumer Unit it’s a shared responsibility that oftentimes puts the onus on the used car buyer.

Checking for a recall is simple and free.  Carfax provides this service at no charge on its website, recall.carfax.com.  All a consumer needs is the make of the car and the 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).  There are also other free sources for this information including most manufacturers or dealers.

If a recall is needed, getting the recalled vehicle fixed is also free for consumers.  Dealers do the repairs at no charge and are reimbursed by the manufacturer.

Last summer the NHTSA issued a final rule requiring all major automakers and motorcycle manufacturers to provide consumers with online access to recall information that must be searchable by VINs.  Automakers have until this August to comply.

“A Simple Mistake”

Last October, the DeSoto Fire Department rescued a family after a fire started in a pickup truck parked outside of the house and quickly spread to the home.

“I do really believe without DeSoto police department and fire department and the paramedics we would not be here,” said Rosalind O’Neal-Smith, who was rescued from the burning home along with husband and son.

“The truck was just about pretty much gone, so it was obvious that’s where the fire started.  You could see pretty clear how it worked its way into the home” said Bryan Parker, the Desoto Fire Department Public Information Officer.

The pickup was a 2001 Ford F-150.

“The most damage was in the motor department or under the hood,” Parker said.

Parker said investigators zeroed in on the cruise or speed control deactivation switch.  The switch was the reason Ford recalled 16 million vehicles over a decade.  Ford won’t discuss this specific case with us, the carmaker issued a recall for this truck one year before the Smiths bought it.  And nobody ever fixed it.

“It’s just a simple mistake that nearly cost a family their lives,” said Parker.

When a recall is issued, the NHTSA works with manufacturers to ensure affected customers are notified.  The agency also reviews the notification schedule.

The NBC 5 Investigates Consumer Unit asked Frank Davis, Ford’s Executive Director of North American Product Programs, about its responsibility to notify consumers about recalls at a recent Dallas event for the new F-150.

“We’ll work through our Ford customer service division to make sure that we connect with those customers,” said Davis.

Ford also told NBC it now sends a total of five notifications over four years and updates its database to the current owner.

Ford said the notification policy in place when the Smiths bought their truck included six letters, but neither Ford, nor the Smiths, will say if that information reached the family.  It’s a family who credits first responders for being there when it needed them most.

“I’m just grateful my family is OK,” Smith said.

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