Besides a trip to the dealer for repairs, recalls can cause little hindrance to car owners, if taken care of in a timely manner. Vehicle recalls are quite common; in 2011 alone there are 155 recalls that affect more than 4 million vehicles.
Recalls may be required by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or voluntarily announced by auto manufacturers to help avoid safety. When a safety issue is discovered, the manufacturer is required by law to try to alert all vehicle owners and dealers of the recall. Open recalls are repaired by dealers that sell and service the vehicle in question at no cost to the owner. With the exception of tire recalls, which are only available for six months, recalls are available for the lifetime of the vehicle—so it is never too late to cash in on your recall.
Because not everyone is aware of or looks in the right places for recall updates, many cars are bought and sold with open recalls. Recalls can go unnoticed and unfixed for years unless the owner is proactive. In fact, it is estimated that at least a third of all recalls go unfixed. This means that as a used car buyer, you need to be careful. There can be no harm in purchasing a vehicle with an outstanding recall as long as you are aware.
You can find open recall information available online, or in a CARFAX Vehicle History Report. Your CARFAX report will alert you of any outstanding recalls for the vehicle in question, along with detailed information about the vehicle’s history. You can also check for open recalls on your vehicle at recall.carfax.com.