In a move that will bolster consumer confidence, convenience, and safety, AutoNation—America’s largest automotive retailer—has announced that it will not sell, lease, or wholesale any vehicle that has an open safety recall. This new policy impacts both new and used cars at the company’s 293 stores, and it will not limit the acceptance of trade-ins.

In setting forth this policy, AutoNation is accepting potential added cost in dealing with recalls, including holding inventory to await parts. This bold step follows industry pressure from consumer groups, such as Consumers Union, legislators, and government agencies for retailers to better protect car shoppers from risks identified by recalls.

"There's no way to expect that customers would or should know of every safety recall on every vehicle they might purchase, so we will ensure that our vehicles have all recalls completed," said Mike Jackson, Chairman, CEO and President of AutoNation. "We make it our responsibility as a retailer to identify those vehicles and remove them from the market until their safety issues have been addressed."

Consumers Union, the  policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, applauds the new AutoNation effort on car recalls and urges other retailers to follow this example. 

Used Cars

Used-car buyers are especially vulnerable to buying a car with an outstanding recall, as the reseller might not have a new-car store and formal relationship with the car manufacturer, as is necessary to perform warranty work. Also, there is no specific federal law requiring dealers to fix recalled used cars before they are sold. Consumers Union thinks Congress should pass S. 900, the Used Car Safety Recall Repair Act, to close this gap.

If you're ready to buy from a used-car dealer, or even a private party, ask the seller for the Vehicle Identification Number and use it to check for any open recalls via any of the following methods:

While the thought of buying—or having just bought—a car with an outstanding recall may be worrisome or scary, remember that a recall means that a problem has been found and a solution identified. The corrective action will be made for free, even after the sale, so long as you bring the car to the local franchised dealer to have the work performed. Of course, there remains risk in driving a recalled vehicle before work is performed, and some recalls can take significant time for parts and training to be available locally.