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Millions of Unrepaired Recalled Vehicles on the Market

The McClellan Law Firm


According to a study by Carfax, 2 million recalled vehicles were advertised online in 2012—all in need of repairs. They estimated about 3 million unrepaired vehicles were being driven nationwide. As of a more recent Carfax study, new research indicates this number is actually far, far larger: 46 million unrepaired vehicles may be on the road today. Up to 5 million unrepaired recalled vehicles were sold just in 2014.

This means that sellers put millions of vehicles on the market every year with serious safety problems. Many of those vehicles are sold by individuals and families who are unaware of the recalls. Others are sold by car dealers who should have information about the recalls. In either case, it’s not hard to see why—recalls in 2014 were applied to 63 million vehicles, nearly 300% more than in 2012.

What’s even more alarming is that many of these unrepaired vehicles are more likely to be family-oriented vehicles: 20% of SUVs and 33% of minivans have been recalled, but left unrepaired. Consumers have communicated multiple reasons why they never come it for repairs. Some cite mistrust of their dealer, expecting salesmen to sell them on other services. Other owners have confidence in their vehicle despite reports of faulty machinery because they’ve driven them for years without incident.

Requiring Dealers to Check for Recalls

In an effort to prevent sales of unfixed recalled cars, California legislators have introduced a bill that would make it illegal to sell such vehicles. They also ask buyers and sellers to pay more attention to recalls. AB-287, as the bill is currently titled, would require dealers to check for existing recalls up to 30 days before displaying any used vehicle for sale.

Under US and California law, a manufacturer has three options for correcting a defect in a vehicle that is less than 10 years old:

  • Replacing the defective part
  • Repairing the defective part
  • Refunding the price of the vehicle less depreciation

The law is scheduled to become active after July 1st, 2016. It would also provide for a disclosure regarding recalls on vehicle certificates of ownership, or “pink slips.” This would hopefully compel more California dealers and sellers to seek repairs—currently, the NHTSA reports that a third of all recalled vehicles are never repaired, despite being legally cost-free for the owner of the vehicle.

Buyers should research the car they would like to buy and determine if there were any recalls issued on the car by running a check on or They can then discuss repairs with the seller. Sellers should also check for recalls and bring a vehicle in for a free repair if it is on the list.

The last thing anyone wants is to have a newly sold car malfunction and cause a serious injury or death. If that happens, the manufacturer may be held liable through a product liability lawsuit.