Last year, 38 million people in the United States purchased used cars. This is more than the number of people who purchased new vehicles. Most of the people who bought used cars likely assumed that there was a law requiring the sellers of those used cars to alert the new owners if there was an active recall, or to have made repairs when required to under a recall before selling the car. Those used car buyers are wrong.
While federal law prohibits new car dealers from selling vehicles with known defects until the repairs required under recall are made, there is no federal law requiring this same thing for used cars.
Considering there have been record numbers of recalled cars in recent years, including more than 51 million cars recalled in 2015, it is a major problem that cars with active recalls are being sold to consumers who do not know that those vehicles have still not been repaired. Consumers are losing their lives because of the fact they are not told the cars they are purchasing have defects that could kill them.
The recalls in recent years have been prompted by serious issues with deadly consequences. Some cars have airbags which explode. These airbags actually become more prone to exploding the older they get, so used car buyers face a substantially greater risk than the car's original owners. Other cars have experienced sudden acceleration problems or vehicles shutting off mid-drive due to faulty ignition switches. Many car owners have died due to the serious problems that resulted in the recalls.
Now, a whole new group of car owners are likely to be killed in preventable car accidents because known dangerous defects are not being repaired before cars are sold to these used-car purchasers. At least one death already occurred. New York Times reported on a woman whose son had bought her a Honda which had been recalled since problems with its Takata airbag came out in 2008. Honda had sent out 20 notices about the recall. The car's new owner, and her son who bought it for her, had no idea. She was in a simple fender-bender, she should have walked away, but instead she died due to an exploding airbag.
More cases like this are going to happen. Many of the cars which have serious defects end up being sold at auction because dealers don't want to sell them directly to their own customers. These cars can change hands multiple times, making it less and less likely that owners will know of the unrepaired defect. Some unlucky owner who gets the car could find out when he gets into a crash and is hurt or killed because of the vehicle's problems. If this happens, the victim or his family need to understand their rights to pursue a case for compensation for losses.