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If Your Car Is Recalled, Can You Return It?

March 28, 2022

Despite the responsibility that automakers have to keep the public safe by creating and distributing safe, well-tested vehicles, cars with dangerous defects are released every year. When these defects are discovered, the manufacturer legally must issue a vehicle recall. If you are notified about a recall involving your car, find out what to do to protect yourself from danger, as well as what your legal rights are if there is an accident.

If Your Car Is Recalled, Can You Return It?

What Is a Vehicle Recall?

A vehicle recall is a request to return, replace, repair or exchange a product after it is discovered that the product contains a defect that could potentially harm consumers. When a safety issue that endangers the public is noticed within an auto part, the manufacturing company may voluntarily issue a recall or a safety organization such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) may order one. In most cases, a recall begins with multiple consumer complaints filed alleging a problem with the vehicle. The manufacturer or government agency will investigate and may recall the product if there is evidence of a defect.

Common Defective Auto Parts

A vehicle part defect can refer to an issue with the overall design of the item, a mistake during its manufacture or assembly, or problems with how the item was marketed to consumers. Throughout history, vehicle recalls have often been associated with the following:

Any type of auto defect can put drivers, passengers and the public at risk of serious automobile accidents. Many different things can cause a vehicle recall, including a faulty part, a violated federal safety standard or an automaker’s failure to safety-test a vehicle before its debut.

What to Do if Your Car Is Recalled

If a vehicle gets recalled, the manufacturer must make a reasonable effort to notify known purchasers of the recall. You will most likely receive notice of a vehicle recall by mail. You can also check to see if a car you bought has been recalled by entering the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) into the NHTSA’s recall search engine. Read the instructions and information on the recall notice carefully.

A recall will describe the nature of the issue and the part(s) affected. It will also give the manufacturer’s recommendation for what to do next. In most cases, the manufacturer will recommend that you cease the use of the vehicle immediately and contact the company for a free repair at the nearest dealership. In some cases, the recommended remedy is to return the vehicle for a free replacement. If you do not want to replace the car, the manufacturer will give you a refund for the full purchase price.

If the remedy is a free repair to fix or replace the defective car part, you generally do not have the right to return it or request a refund for your purchase. Instead, you should follow the recall’s instructions to have the issue fixed at no cost to you. Most repairs are done at local dealerships. The manufacturing company must give you an accurate estimate of how long the repair will take.

Protect Your Rights During an Auto Recall

Your rights as a consumer during a recall include receiving a written notice and a cost-free remedy. If a defective auto part led to a car accident or injury, you may have grounds to file a product liability claim. A lawsuit seeks a financial recovery from the responsible party, such as the manufacturer or dealership. It is in your best interest to seek a vehicle repair or replacement as soon as possible after receiving a recall notice. Continuing to drive your vehicle while knowing that it has been recalled could impact your right to file a lawsuit for a related car accident.