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Do Used Car Dealerships Knowingly Sell Recalled Vehicles?

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

It is within federal and state guidelines for dealerships to sell used cars that have been recalled for various safety reasons. However, the dealership is not required to research whether there has been a recall on a particular vehicle, and if the salesperson does not know, they do not have to tell you. If you purchase a new or used car in Michigan, and there is an accident due to a recall item on that vehicle, it is best to contact a Michigan car accident attorney at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. for your protection.

The debate is still ongoing as to whether car dealerships should be responsible for knowing that a car has been recalled for safety violations. Although many consumer groups have petitioned the government to force this issue, lawmakers are hesitant to approve regulation of this type due to the economic hardships it would place on used car dealers as well as car owners trying to trade in their used cars.

A Short History of Recalls

A year after the passage of the National Traffic and Vehicle Safety Act of 1966, the first standards for car safety were established and in less than four years car makers had issued recalls for over 10 million cars.

Not all recalls are due to safety reasons or problems that might lead to an accident, but many are. An automaker has the opportunity to announce their own recall if they see a design problem or a mechanical problem with a new vehicle, and recalls can also be issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) through the use of a court order.

With so many vehicles being recalled in any given year, there is always the possibility that the owner will miss the recall notice, or trade-in the car if there is a suspicion of ongoing problems with the vehicle. Although it is very easy to check the history on a vehicle by plugging in the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) to a computer and searching for any recall information attached to that car, used car dealers are not required to this, but a consumer looking to purchase the car could be able to access this information. The Law Offices of Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. has all the up to date information on recall data on all cars. If you have a question, we can help you.


There is no federal law that prohibits used car dealers from selling cars that have been issued a recall notice. It is called “the used-car loophole.” This policy has been challenged at the Congressional level, but with no success. The safety advocates claim that not making consumers aware of all recalls puts them at risk while a group representing new car dealers asserts that consumers will be less likely to purchase new vehicles if a law like this was on the books.

Used Car Dealerships

Even though the car manufacturers are responsible for repairing the defects related to the recall, a used car sales company has to take the car to the dealership to have it repaired, and many times they have to wait for the correct parts to be available. This adds to the expense of transporting the car as well as a delay in the potential sale. From the view of the consumer, a recall item that has not been repaired can cost them over $1,000 on the trade-in value even when the manufacturer has agreed to fix it.

Final Thoughts

A used car dealer can sell a buyer a used car that has had a recall or has a recall that has not been fixed. It is in the buyer’s interest to check the history of the vehicle to ensure that they are aware of what they are buying. The law Offices of Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. can assist in this research to make sure that you are purchasing a safe vehicle. Contact us a or call us at 866-MICH-LAW for a free consultation.

Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.

Tristan is a professional writer and had careers as a teacher of English, school administrator, and as a broker in real estate sales. He has gained a great deal of legal experience through his service as the president of a teacher's union, a member of the board for a real estate association, and as the chairman of the Government Affairs Committee for the real estate board of directors. Before beginning a full-time job as a freelance writer, he was the Executive Director of the Global Business Alliance for a local Chamber of Commerce and sat on the Government Affairs Committee for the Chamber.



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