Safety groups have found numerous used cars offered for sale despite unresolved safety recalls, putting drivers at risk of potentially preventable auto accidents.

Legislation Would Mandate That Dealers Repair Outstanding Recalls That Put Drivers at Risk of an Auto Accident Before Selling or Leasing Vehicles

Legislation first introduced in Congress in 2015 is potentially getting a second look if three Democratic lawmakers get their way. After previous attempts to ban the sale of used vehicles with open recalls went nowhere in 2015, the Used Car Safety Recall Repair Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate on July 26, 2017. No action on the bill has yet been taken.

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.), and Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) are now attempting to revive the bill, which would make it against the law to sell or lease a used car until after any recall issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation or announced by the manufacturer has been resolved.

The legislation does come with some exceptions to the requirement, such as in situations where the recall information was not yet available, or when the recall notification requirements are set aside in a civil lawsuit. If passed, the law would basically treat all recalls equally, safety-related or not. If an open recall is present, the vehicle could not be sold until the issue is remedied.

Currently, only new vehicles subject to an open safety recall cannot legally be sold, a ban that was expanded to cover rental cars in 2016. The legislation extending the ban passed more than a decade after two California sisters died in an auto accident involving a recalled Enterprise rental car. Unbeknownst to Raechel and Jacqueline Houck, the 2004 PT Cruiser that they had rented was the subject of an open recall related to a leak in the engine compartment that could cause a fire. Enterprise had been notified of the recall a month before the accident but chose to rent the car to the sisters anyway because it was the only vehicle available on the lot, and offered it to them as a free upgrade. The vehicle, which had not been repaired, caught fire and collided head-on with an 18-wheeler.

Report: One in Four CarMax Vehicles Have Open Recalls

According to a September 2017 report compiled by several safety groups, at least one out of four vehicles sold at certain CarMax locations have been the subject of unresolved safety recalls. In conducting the research, the groups surveyed nearly 1,700 vehicles at eight CarMax locations in California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts and found that 27 percent of the used cars available at those locations had unrepaired safety defects that were subject to recalls, including widely publicized recalls involving Takata airbags and General Motors ignition switches that have been linked to fatalities.

No Guidance for Used Car Sales Currently in Place

No federal agency offers formal guidance as to the sale of used vehicles subject to open recalls, meaning that when you buy a used car with parts that may have been previously recalled, there is a good chance that you may be buying a vehicle that is still defective.

However, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules that were changed in 2016 now require used car dealers to be extremely careful when making safety-related advertising claims about their inventory. They are now required to disclose that vehicles available for sale may be subject to open recalls, and must tell customers how to find a particular vehicle’s recall status.

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