Can you buy or sell a car with a recall?

When automakers discover that something in one of their cars doesn't always function correctly — especially if it causes safety concerns — they issue a recall. A recall lets people who own the car know to take it to an authorized dealer or mechanic to have it fixed, and the automaker pays for it. Depending on the state, dealerships may be able to sell used vehicles with an open recall — but not new vehicles. When buying a car with a recall, it's important to be careful because recalls can be related to safety issues.

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Should I buy a car with an open recall?

Dealerships are prohibited from selling new cars with open recalls. Automakers are typically required to fix recall issues for vehicles up to 10 years old. So if you're buying a new car from a dealer, an open recall shouldn't be an issue because the dealer must resolve any issues before selling the car. However, dealerships may be allowed to sell used vehicles with open recalls depending on the state. If you're buying a car with a recall from a private seller or dealership, you should research the recall and find out if the seller has addressed it. If the seller has not repaired the recall issue, it's a good idea to resolve it as soon as possible after the transaction is complete.

Tips for buying a new car with an open recall

Check automaker websites

Automakers issue recalls and typically bear financial responsibility for fixing open issues. Researching an automaker can help you understand the specific reason for a recall and the risk of not having the problem repaired.

Find a vehicle in the NHTSA registry

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a database that lets you look up recalls by car make and model or vehicle identification number (VIN). This database shows whether any recalls could impact a specific vehicle.

Have a dealer inspect the vehicle

If you're buying a car from a private seller, having a dealer inspect the car might be a good idea. They can give you insight into any recall issues and other potential problems they see with the car. Learn more about what to look for when buying a used car.

Is it legal to sell a new car with a recall?

Dealerships cannot sell a new car with an open recall. However, dealerships may be able to sell used vehicles with an open recall, depending on the state.

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