How Does Buying and Selling a Car With a Recall Work?

Selling and Buying a Used Car with a Recall

Car recalls are all too common. While a vehicle recall may be issued for any reason, they typically occur when the manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determines that there is a defect that creates a safety risk. If you have been shopping for a new vehicle, you may be wondering how buying a used car with a recall works — and whether a recall would make a car a lemon.

What is a Vehicle Recall?

A recall is issued when a hazard exists in a vehicle that poses a risk of harm to drivers, passengers, and others on the road — or the vehicle fails to meet minimum safety standards. Recalls can be voluntarily issued by the manufacturer or mandated by the NHTSA. When vehicles are recalled, the safety defect may exist in a group of the same vehicles or in an item of motor vehicle equipment.

Recalls might not only include a specific vehicle make and model, but they can include airbags, tires, seats, steering wheels, or other components such as a fuel system or wiring. Manufacturers must file a report with the NHTSA that includes the following information:

  • A description of the defect
  • The vehicle or equipment impacted by the issue
  • The circumstances that led to the recall
  • A description of the remedy
  • The schedule for the recall

If your registered vehicle has been recalled, the manufacturer will send you a letter in the mail notifying you of the issue and the remedy. It’s crucial to bring the vehicle to an authorized dealership as soon as possible for the necessary repairs. If you aren’t certain whether your vehicle is subject to a recall, you can enter your VIN on the NHTSA website. The search option reveals all unrepaired vehicles that were part of a recall within the past 15 years.

Is it Legal to Sell a Car With an Open Recall in California?

Dealerships and private sellers are permitted to sell used vehicles with open recalls. In addition, they are not legally required to make repairs — a buyer of a used car with an open recall would be able to have the defect fixed for free. However, it is illegal for dealerships to sell new vehicles that are subject to recalls without first repairing them.

If you inquired about a recall and a dealership lied or misrepresented the status or condition of the vehicle, they may have engaged in auto dealer fraud. In these cases, you may be able to assert a legal claim against the dealership for misleading you regarding the vehicle’s safety or value.

Is Buying a Used Car With a Recall a Bad Idea?

If you are thinking about buying a used car with an open recall, there are several things you should take into consideration. Critically, you should do your homework to ensure you understand the nature of the recall to decide whether you wish to move forward with the purchase. Usually, the problem that gave rise to the recall is easily fixed with a trip to the dealership. The recall may also simply be a preventative measure — but it should still be a priority to get the issue fixed.

A recall doesn’t always mean there is an issue with the vehicle as a whole. Often, a part or component needs to be replaced. But if the problem that led to the recall occurs repeatedly and the vehicle cannot be repaired, you may be able to invoke your legal rights under California’s Lemon Law. However, it’s vital to be aware that you can only assert a lemon law claim if the vehicle is still under the original manufacturer’s warranty.

Does a Recall Mean Your Car is a Lemon?

A recall doesn’t always mean your car is a lemon. In order for your new or used vehicle to be labeled a lemon in California and qualify for a refund or replacement, it must satisfy specific criteria. In addition to being under warranty, the defect must be one that substantially impairs the vehicle’s safety or value. The non-conformity must also be one that cannot be repaired after several reasonable attempts have been made. When cars are recalled, the manufacturer is usually able to fix the defect the first time you bring the vehicle to the repair shop.

A vehicle may also be labeled a lemon if it was in the repair shop for a total of 30 or more days and the defect wasn’t remedied. California also recognizes a legal presumption that a vehicle is a lemon if the non-conformity arose within the first 18 months of delivery or the initial 18,000 miles on the odometer. There is a four-year statute of limitations in place to commence a lemon law lawsuit, starting on the date the defect was discovered.

Contact an Experienced Southern California Lemon Law Attorney

If you bought a vehicle with a problem that cannot be fixed after taking several trips to the authorized dealership for repairs, you might have a lemon. A knowledgeable lemon law attorney can assess your case and advise you regarding your legal rights and options. The attorneys at The Ledbetter Law Firm offer skillful advocacy to consumers in California who have been burdened with vehicles that fail to conform to their warranties — and strive to obtain positive results in their cases.

The Ledbetter Law Firm assists people in Southern California who have experienced lemon law issues with their vehicles in obtaining the refund or replacement vehicle to which they are entitled. With offices conveniently located in Torrance and San Diego, California, telephone and video conferencing options are also available. Call (424) 407-3487 to schedule a consultation with a California Lemon Law attorney today.