"Certified" Used Cars May Not Be Risk-free

For many of us, our first taste of automotive freedom came from scraping together enough money to buy a used car. There are great deals out there and lots of solid financial reasons to continue purchasing previously owned vehicles. In fact, used car prices declined about four percent on average last year over 2015, and the outlook is for more of the same. Unfortunately, a decline in cost may also equal a decline in safety. While many car dealers tout the benefits of "certification,” the subject of recalls is raising some thorny questions about used car safety.

A certified pre-owned (CPO) car typically has less than 60,000 to 80,000 miles, is no older than five to seven years, and has undergone a rigorous inspection program administered by a factory-certified mechanic. At the end of last year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a ruling allowing two major used-car chains and General Motors (makers of Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and other brands) to advertise their vehicles as certified even if they are still the subjects of safety recalls for problems that have not been fixed. The dealers are not required to specify any pending recalls or make repairs -- only to tell buyers that the vehicles could be subjected to recalls and how they can find out that information.

Consumer groups are concerned that the ruling could set a precedent of allowing car retailers to place a dangerous burden on the shoulders of consumers and is akin to condoning false advertising. While the FTC believes the disclosure requirement is sufficient, the ruling is in contrast to the position of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which has called for used car dealers to fix recalled items before sale.

The NHTSA offers an online tool with direct access to the recall database of major vehicle manufacturers. Consumers can also enter their Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to discover whether a specific vehicle has not been repaired as part of a safety recall in the last 15 years.

Of course, many recalled products are never returned or repaired, but few pose the same substantial risk to consumers and those who share the road with them. For example, a dealer would not have to tell buyers that the used car they are purchasing has a Takata airbag, which has been the reason for 42 million vehicles being recalled. These air bags have caused injuries and fatalities when they suddenly explode and spray metal shrapnel into the passenger compartment.

While there is no time limit on when vehicle owners can get free repairs for safety-related recalls, the risk of danger is high since as much as 30 percent of recalled cars aren’t repaired in the first 18 months after a recall is announced – suggesting that many repairs are never made at all.

We Can Help

If you’ve already been involved in a car accident and suspect it was caused by a defect that was the subject of a recall, it’s important to consult an attorney to find out your rights. At Stabinski & Funt, P.A., we have successfully represented victims throughout South Florida who have been seriously hurt by defective products. We have also assisted families who have lost loved ones to defective cars and trucks. For over 45 years, we have been helping injured consumers put their lives back on track, and we are ready to help you. We offer risk-free consultations and work on a contingency basis, which means that we do not require you to pay any fees until we have secured a recovery on your behalf. If you have any questions about this topic, feel free to contact us by calling 305-964-8644 or filling out a free case evaluation form.

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