Is a dealership allowed to sell a new vehicle with an open safety recall?

October 3, 2017

Dear Consumer Ed:

I ordered a new truck six weeks ago, which was just delivered to the dealership. I went to the dealership, filled out all the paperwork and left the finance department with the salesperson and the keys in hand. I was then informed I would not be allowed to take delivery of the vehicle because there was a safety compliance recall. The manufacturer has stated that the parts needed to correct the issue might not be available for another two months. Is the dealership allowed to sell a vehicle with an outstanding safety recall?

Consumer Ed says:

No, not if it’s a brand new vehicle. The federal National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act prohibits franchised dealers from selling new vehicles that are subject to open safety recalls that have been issued by either the manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) or which fail to comply with certain motor vehicle safety standards. Under the Act, dealerships are prohibited from selling such vehicles until the appropriate repair is complete.

By selling you a new vehicle subject to an open recall, the dealer may have violated the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act, which prohibits unfair and deceptive practices in the marketplace. If you are unable to get your situation resolved with the dealership, you may want to hire a lawyer to help you reach a resolution.  You may also want to file a complaint with the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit by going to www.consumer.ga.gov or by calling 404-651-8600.  

It should be noted that the above federal law does not apply to used vehicles, meaning a dealer is generally able to sell a used vehicle that is subject to a safety recall before the vehicle has been repaired. Consumers can protect themselves when buying a used car or truck by taking the following steps:

  • Before you buy a used vehicle, go to SaferCar.gov to see whether the particular vehicle you are interested in is subject to a recall.
  • Do not rely solely on a vehicle history report (such Autocheck or Carfax) when buying a used vehicle because the report does not pick up everything that happens to a vehicle.
  • Ask the salesperson whether the vehicle you are interested in is subject to any recalls. If the salesperson tells you a recall has been repaired, ask for proof.
  • If possible, have any used vehicle you are interested in buying inspected by a qualified, independent mechanic before you sign a contract to buy it.

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