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Used car buyers beware: Dealers might not mention recalls

When a Georgia driver is in the market for a new car, he or she has certain protections under law that new car dealers are required to adhere too. For example, dealers are required under federal law to repair known defects in new cars. Car rental companies must do this as well, but used cars are different. Potential used car buyers do not have to be told by the seller about recalls or known safety issues as there is no federal law that says they do. Some safety advocates say there should be one, but there is controversy over whether used car sellers should be required to repair known safety defects before a sale.

Consumer Reports launched a special investigation into the issue by sending out secret shoppers to purchase used cars. The Takata airbag recalls that affected several models of Honda and Ford vehicles were the focus of the investigation. Secret shoppers were sent to find cars included in these recalls for sale at used car dealerships, which they found online and across the country.

The investigation found a total of 826 vehicles, including Honda's 2001 and 2002 Civic and Accord and Ford's 2006 Ranger, listed for sale on the websites Autotrader and Cars.com in early 2019. Of those vehicles, 102 of them still had open airbag recalls.

Both of the websites encourage their visitors to check on car recalls before purchasing a vehicle. However, the secret shoppers found that when they contacted dealers directly, few volunteered information about recalls or airbag safety issues. When confronted by the shoppers about the airbag recall, only some dealers offered to make repairs. Used car dealers and groups that represent them say that requiring dealers to make recall repairs on used cars would be impractical because of the difficulty of obtaining parts and other issues.

When someone is injured in a car accident that was caused by a defect in the car, the manufacturer of the vehicle could be liable by the victim. When defective products are recalled, the manufacturer is not absolved of responsibility for any injuries that are caused by its product.

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