July 05, 2017

Used car sold without air bags

Dear Consumer Ed:

Last month I bought a 2012 used car “as is” from a dealership. I just discovered that the car was sold to me without air bags, which the dealer never disclosed. Is this legal in the State of Georgia?

Consumer Ed says:

Since your vehicle was sold without an airbag, it was likely involved in a previous accident in which the air bars were deployed. Because airbags are expensive to replace, an unscrupulous repair shop or dealer may have elected to remove the airbag and simply install a new cover without properly replacing the deployed bag. Such a practice, along with similar practices such as installing a counterfeit airbag or a used, faulty bag, is illegal in Georgia.  

The dealer who sold you the car may or may not have been involved in the above conduct and it may be difficult to identify who removed your airbag and when this occurred. If the dealership had knowledge that the airbag had been removed, however, and failed to disclose that fact or took steps, such as disconnecting any air bag indicator lights, to hide the fact there was no functioning airbag, those actions may constitute unfair and deceptive acts or practices. Such conduct may be a violation of the laws this office enforces. You can submit a complaint to the Georgia Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 404-651-8600. While the Georgia Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division does not represent individual consumers, it does look for patterns of unfair and deceptive business practices and may decide to conduct an investigation now or in the future. You may also consider consulting with a private attorney to determine what, if any, remedies are available to you and whether you should consider any legal action.

To protect yourself in the future, consider the following before you purchase a used vehicle:

  • Check a vehicle’s title history to determine if it has been previously wrecked or salvaged by referencing a report such as Carfax or Autocheck. While not every accident or relevant event is always reported to these services and thus these histories may not be 100% complete, they are a good tool to learn more about a vehicle.   
  • Take the vehicle to a trusted mechanic before purchase. An independent pre-sale inspection is always wise when purchasing a used vehicle.  Mechanics can ascertain issues that most consumers cannot, including whether or not an airbag has been removed and/or replaced properly.
  • Check for working airbags when test driving the vehicle. Most vehicles’ front dashboards will illuminate with an airbag icon when the vehicle is first started but will then turn off.  Air bag indicators that remain illuminated or never illuminate to begin with could indicate a problem with the airbags. 

Submit your own question to Consumer Ed. Remember…we do not give legal advice. Always consult a lawyer about legal issues.

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