Should CarMax Check for Recalled Vehicles?

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CarMax, the nation’s largest used-car retailer, is facing criticism from nearly a dozen consumer groups who allege that the company irresponsibly sells recalled cars without fixing them first, the New York Times reports.

In a petition recently filed with the Federal Trade Commission, the groups say that CarMax has engaged in deceptive advertising because it tells buyers that their vehicles have passed a thorough 125-point inspection. However, that inspection does not include checking to see whether cars with defective auto parts have been recalled or making those repairs.

It has been a disturbing year for vehicle recalls worldwide. General Motors has recalled more than 27 million of its U.S. vehicles in 2014. The company is facing scrutiny from federal regulators over a faulty ignition switch in several of its models, which has led to multiple deaths and injuries.

Bur unlike new cars, there is no state or federal law that requires auto dealers to fix safety recalls on used cars.

CarMax Responds to Critics

In a statement, CarMax pointed out that it does not have permission from automakers to fix recalls at their facilities, and there is no individualized recall database for the company to search for each used vehicle that comes on its lots, the Times reports.

Unless and until reforms are implemented that require used car dealers to ensure that repairs related to recalled parts have been completed, the company says that consumers are responsible for checking on recalls before purchasing a used car and getting those repairs made on their own.

How to Check a Used Car’s Recall Record

There are several ways to investigate whether a used car has been recalled. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a vehicle recalls and defects website that provides the latest news on recalls and also allows you to search for recalls on older vehicles. There is also Recalls.gov, a comprehensive site maintained by the federal government regarding recalls of all sorts of products, not just cars.

In addition, Consumer Reports provides people with a free online tool to search for recalls based on a car’s year, make and model. Of course, manufacturers also can provide information about whether one of their vehicles has been recalled.   If you visit a used car lot and think you have found a vehicle you like, make sure you wait to buy it until after you have done your homework.

You should not necessarily be deterred from buying a used car that is currently under recall.  In many cases, a recalled part is a free and easy fix that simply requires a trip to the nearest dealership for that manufacturer. However, some cars are recalled for potentially deadly problems. Some people will never be comfortable buying a used car knowing it was recalled for a particularly dangerous hazard, even if they know that the problem can be remedied.

The decision is up to the individual. The customer must be informed enough to recognize that it is an issue in the first place.

Already Bought a Used Car? Make Sure You Get Recall Notices in the Future

If you have already purchased a used car, you should check to see if it has been recalled. It is also important for you to receive any future recall notices, so be sure to register the vehicle with the manufacturer under your name. Otherwise, any recall notices will be mailed to the original owner of the car. If the manufacturer doesn’t know to inform you personally, then unless you make a habit of checking for recalls regularly, you could miss something important.

When it comes to vehicle accidents, the stakes are too high to ignore recall notices. If you know that a recall exists, and you continue to use it without taking steps to remedy the defective condition, then if that condition causes an accident and you or someone else is injured, liability will be yours, and you will have no recourse against the manufacturer.

No matter whether your car is new or used, it is essential that you make sure all repairs that you know to be reasonably necessary in order to ensure the vehicle’s safe operation and to protect yourself and others.

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