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3.5 million reasons to be careful when buying a used car

3.5 million reasons to be careful when buying a used car3.5 million reasons to be careful when buying a used car

If you're thinking about buying a used car, it's essential to learn not only as much as you can about the specific vehicles you're looking at but also those models' recall history. Carfax, the purveyor of vehicle-history data, released a report today indicating that 3.5 million cars sold online last year had been subject to a recall even though the issues hadn't been fixed.

"Open recalls are still a major public safety issue," said Larry Gamache, communications director at Carfax, in a release. "In fact, our research indicates that more than one in 10 used cars for sale online has an open recall."

Used cars can offer amazing values, especially if the models are only two or three years old. But you have to be wary of safety risks when shopping for a used car. (Learn about the 10 ways to protect yourself from sketchy used-car sales tactics and become an ace at spotting a used-car lemon.)

While services such as Carfax can be a great starting point, don’t rely on used-car-history reports, which could contain gaps and omissions in repair history. Instead do some of your own investigative work. Check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's official safety recalls page as well as the agency's listing of Technical Service Bulletins, which details common or recurring problems with specific vehicles.

Consumer Reports also examines real-world car reliability data gathered from thousands of our subscribers annually information that helps us determine the best and worst used cars.

—Paul Eng



More from Consumer Reports:
Consumer Reports' top scoring cars
Best & worst car values
5 great cars that won't bust your budget

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