Honda CRV with three open recalls for sale

Buyer beware.

When shopping for a used car, customers may think used-car dealers have checked to make sure the cars they're selling have no outstanding safety recalls. But an investigation reveals the opposite. Some used-car dealers have cars with open recalls on their sales lots, and they say it's standard procedure to sell these potentially unsafe cars to unsuspecting customers.

Fox6 in Wisconsin investigated three different car dealerships and found vehicles with safety recalls being sold. According to CarFax there are 52,000 vehicles for sale in Wisconsin with open recalls.

The dealers in this report actually seemed baffled that recall notifications on used cars might be important or even their responsibility. When Fox6 contacted GS Auto about a 2004 Honda CRV with three open recalls, the dealership said the car had already been sold.

"I know there was something on it, on the Carfax report. I don't know if it was taken care of or if we did it or if the customer who bought it is going to get a letter in the mail," the salesman told FOX6.

Bargain Town Motors had two vehicles for sale with open recalls, a 2004 Acura MDX and a 2007 Toyota Prius.

"It's not a big deal because, I mean, you take it to the dealer and they fix it for free. If there's recalls on there and we got time to do it, we'll do it. If not, we sell them, you know," the salesman told FOX6 News.

Automakers issue recalls through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to fix serious safety issues with a vehicle. But once notified, it's up to the customer to schedule an appointment to have necessary fixes made.

How does this impact used car shoppers? Based on the Wisconsin investigation, car shoppers should be diligent in researching a potential purchase. They can:

- Search for recalls by year, make and model on NHTSA's website.

- Ask a used-car dealer for paperwork that proves a car has undergone maintenance for all related recalls.

- When buying any used car, whether through private party or a used-car dealer, it's a good idea to have a third-party mechanic examine the vehicle. This person should be able to tell a potential buyer whether recall-related maintenance has been performed.

- If not, schedule the car for an appointment at a local dealership. There are no charges for recall-related maintenance.

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