Can a Dealership Sell a Car with a Recall? Exploring Your Rights as a Buyer

The Question of Selling Cars with Recalls at Dealerships

Buying a car, either new or used, is a significant investment that requires careful consideration. Every buyer wants to ensure that the vehicle they purchase is in optimal condition and will provide reliable transportation for years to come. However, one question that often arises when considering a car purchase is whether dealerships can legally sell cars with recalls. While this may seem like a straightforward question, the answer is not always clear-cut. The sale of cars with recalls can be a complicated issue with various factors to consider.

Despite the potential dangers of selling cars with recalls, dealerships have been known to offer them for sale. It is essential to understand that recalls exist for a reason, usually related to safety concerns or defects with the vehicle. Though many dealerships will try to complete the necessary repairs before selling the car, some vehicles may still have unresolved safety issues due to a lack of available parts or insufficient repairs.

While the sale of cars with recalls is not necessarily illegal, it can be unethical to do so without proper disclosure to the buyer. When buying a vehicle with a recall, it’s important to know the potential risk to yourself and others, and to take the necessary steps to ensure the repairs have been completed or will be in the future.

In this blog post, we’ll dive deeper into the issue of selling cars with recalls, including the legality of such sales and the potential hazards for both buyers and dealerships. We’ll also explore strategies for handling recalls when buying a car and provide tips for safeguarding yourself in the process. Read on to learn more about how dealerships handle recalls, what steps you can take as a buyer, and how to ensure that your investment in a vehicle is a safe one.

Recalled Vehicles and their Sale

Recalled vehicles are a major concern in the automotive industry. Auto manufacturers often issue recalls to provide free repair or replacement of faulty parts or systems. This is done to ensure the safety of the vehicle’s passengers and other road users as well as to comply with federal safety regulations.

What is a recall?

A recall is a process that vehicle manufacturers or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) initiate to fix a defect or non-compliance in a car that poses a safety risk to drivers or passengers. This process is initiated when the vehicle manufacturer discovers a defect or non-compliance with a federal motor vehicle safety standard (FMVSS) that affects the safety or performance of the vehicle or it is notified of a defect through complaints or reports from dealerships, customers, or mechanics.

The vehicle manufacturer is required by law to notify the NHTSA of the defect or non-compliance and conduct a recall to repair or replace the defective part free of charge. The NHTSA oversees the process and approves the manufacturer’s recall plan before it is implemented.

It’s important to note that recalled vehicles are not illegal to sell. Dealerships can sell a car with an open recall, but they cannot sell a new car that has an open recall. However, it’s highly recommended to avoid buying a car with an open recall. The defect or non-compliance may put the driver and others at risk while driving, and it may also affect the vehicle’s resale value.

Legal Obligations of Dealerships

Dealerships have a legal obligation to ensure that the vehicles they sell are safe and in compliance with the law. This includes any recalls that have been issued for the vehicle. Failure to do so may result in fines and legal action being taken against the dealership.

Laws surrounding the sale of recalled vehicles?

In the United States, federal law prohibits the sale or lease of new vehicles that have an open safety recall. However, there is no federal law prohibiting the sale of used vehicles with an open recall. Some states have passed their own laws regarding the sale of used vehicles with open recalls. For example, California prohibits the sale of used vehicles with open recalls that have not been remedied.

It is important to note that not all recalls are considered safety recalls. Non-safety recalls, such as ones that involve a minor defect, do not have the same restrictions on sale as safety recalls.

Responsibility of dealerships regarding recalls?

Dealerships are required to notify buyers of any open recalls on used vehicles at the time of sale. The notification must include the fact that the vehicle has an open recall and any information about remedying the recall that the dealership has available.

If a dealership sells a vehicle with an open recall, they may be held responsible if the defect causes harm to the buyer or anyone else. In some cases, the dealership may be required to buy back the vehicle or make repairs at their own expense.

What the dealership must do if a recall is issued for a sold car?
For new cars: Any new car with an open recall cannot be sold or leased until the recall has been fixed.
For used cars: The dealership must notify the buyer of any open recalls at the time of sale and provide information about remedying the recall. The dealership can sell the car as long as they provide full disclosure about the open recall to the buyer.
For both new and used cars: Dealerships are required to remedy any open recalls before delivering the car to the buyer. However, in some cases, the dealership may not have access to the parts needed to fix the recall right away. In this case, the dealership must notify the buyer and remedy the recall as soon as possible.

Buying a Car with a Recalled Issue

If you are in the market for a car, you may be wondering if it is safe to buy a car with an unresolved recall issue. A recall occurs when a manufacturer determines that a particular vehicle model has a safety-related defect or does not comply with a federal safety standard. Once a recall is issued, the manufacturer must notify the owners of the affected vehicles and provide a free remedy.

Should you buy a car with a recall?

Experts recommend that you should avoid buying a car with an unresolved recall. It’s not just for your own safety, but for others too. If the car has a safety defect, it could cause an accident, and you will be liable for it. If you do decide to purchase a car with an open recall, be sure to get a written acknowledgment that the dealer notified you of the recall and that the dealer will make the necessary repairs before selling the car.

What are the risks of buying a car with an unresolved recall?

The risks of buying a car with an unresolved recall are significant. The defect that prompted the recall could create a safety issue that may cause an accident, resulting in serious injury or even death. In addition to the safety risks, purchasing a car with an open recall can lead to additional expenses for the vehicle owner. If the issue is not addressed by the manufacturer, it could create further problems with the vehicle in the future.

Risks of buying a car with an unresolved recall:
Increased risk of an accident due to a safety-related defect
Potential liability for any accidents caused by the defect
Possible additional expenses for the vehicle owner

Safe Practices when Buying a Used or New Car

Buying a car is a substantial investment, regardless of whether it is new or used. When purchasing a car, it is essential to take all the measures necessary to ensure your safety and investment. There are several practices you should adopt when purchasing a new or used car.

  • Research the car – Before making any purchase, conduct research about the car you are interested in to ensure it has no significant safety problems and has passed all necessary inspections.
  • Negotiate the price – Conduct market research of the car and determine a reasonable price range. Negotiate with the seller, but remember that safety and proper vehicle maintenance should be your top priority, not cost savings.
  • Take it for a test drive – Always test the car before purchasing it, whether it is new or used, to ensure that you are comfortable with it and identify any potential issues.
  • Check the car’s history – When purchasing a used car, request a vehicle history report to know if the vehicle has been in any accidents, if it has undergone any repairs, and if it has been recalled.
  • Verify the mileage – Ensure that the mileage on the car is accurate and matches the documents provided.

How to identify if your car has a recall or not?

Recalls occur when a car manufacturer identifies a problem with a vehicle that affects its safety. It could be due to defective parts, a mechanical issue, or a software problem. Here are a few ways to identify if your car has a recall:

  • Check the VIN – The VIN, or Vehicle Identification Number, is a unique identifier assigned to every vehicle. Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website and enter the VIN to access information about recalls and safety issues related to your car.
  • Contact the manufacturer – If you have doubts about whether your car has a recall, contact the manufacturer’s customer service to verify if the car is affected.
  • Check automaker websites – Some manufacturers, such as General Motors, Honda, and Toyota, regularly update their websites with recall information.

How to determine if a dealership has resolved a recall issue before buying a car?

When purchasing a used car, it is not uncommon to buy it from a dealership. Dealerships are responsible for ensuring the car’s safety before selling it to buyers. Here are a few methods to determine if a dealership has resolved a recall issue before buying a car:

  • Ask the seller directly – Ask the dealer if the car has any recalls, and if so, if they have been resolved.
  • Check the car’s repair history – The car’s repair history should include any recalls addressed by the seller or dealership. Request the repair history from the dealership or the seller to verify if any recalls have been resolved.
  • Check the manufacturer’s website – Manufacturers often keep recall records for completed repairs that dealerships have attended to. Access the manufacturer’s website to verify if the car has a recall history.


Dealerships are legally allowed to sell cars with open recalls, but it is recommended that the dealership fixes the issue before selling the car to avoid any potential safety hazards. Manufacturers are required to notify owners of these recalls and provide free repairs. It is important for buyers to research the history of a car they are interested in purchasing to ensure it does not have any unresolved recalls.

Should you buy a car with an unresolved recall?

It is not illegal to buy a car with an open recall, but it is not recommended. Unresolved recalls can pose serious safety risks, and the manufacturer is required to provide free repairs. Buyers should inquire about any recalls before purchasing a car and have the dealership fix any open recalls before completing the sale. In some cases, the dealership may offer to sell the car as-is, leaving the responsibility of fixing the recall to the buyer.

The importance of researching before buying a car.

Researching a car’s history before purchasing is important to ensure the safety and value of the car. In addition to checking for any unresolved recalls, buyers should also check the car’s accident history, maintenance records, and ownership history. This information can be obtained through services such as Carfax or through the dealership’s records. It is also recommended to take the car for a test drive and have it inspected by a trusted mechanic to ensure it is in good condition before making a purchase.

Things to research before buying a car:
-History of any recalls
-Accident history
-Maintenance records
-Ownership history


Can a dealership sell a car with a recall?

Yes, a dealership can sell a car with a recall, but the dealer must have the recall repair performed before selling the car. Federal law prohibits dealers from selling new cars or used cars with open recalls if they haven’t been repaired.

What is a recall?

A recall is an action taken by a vehicle manufacturer to remedy a defect or noncompliance with a federal safety standard. When a recall is issued, the manufacturer contacts owners of affected vehicles and notifies them of the problem. The manufacturer also provides a solution for the problem.

Can I still buy a car with a recall?

Yes, you can still buy a car with a recall, but it’s important to ensure that any open recalls have been addressed before you purchase it. You can check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website to see if a vehicle has any outstanding recalls.

Do I have to pay for a recall repair?

No, you do not have to pay for a recall repair. The vehicle manufacturer is responsible for repairing any defects or safety issues covered under a recall at no cost to the vehicle owner.

What should I do if I discover a recall on a car I recently purchased?

If you discover a recall on a car you recently purchased, contact the dealership or manufacturer immediately to schedule a repair. The manufacturer will repair the problem free of charge. It’s important to address any open recalls as soon as possible, as they can pose a safety risk to you and other drivers on the road.