Most consumers who purchase a vehicle that is “new to them” nevertheless expect to take a car, truck, or van that is free from known defects and problems. These consumer expectations are abundantly clear. The fact of the matter is that a Public Policy Polling study found that 89 percent of American consumers believe that it is deceptive “When a dealer advertises that a car was thoroughly inspected and qualified to be sold as a ‘certified’ car, but fails to repair a safety recall defect.” Furthermore, the same study indicates that when dealers advertise a vehicle as undergoing a multi-point inspection, all safety defects should be repaired prior to the sale. Unfortunately, the actual practices of auto dealers and car and truck auction facilities often do not comport with these expectations. Rather, well-intentioned consumers purchase a vehicle that they believe is “safe” and free from defects. In the best case scenario, the consumer discovers the safety defect through NHTSA’s SAFERCAR defect look-up tool. In the worst-case scenario, the driver does not discover the defect until it is too late after the defect has already caused a potentially serious car accident. If you were hurt in a car accident due to a defective vehicle, contact a Philadelphia car accident lawyer of The Reiff Law Firm.
Recent New York Times Report Highlights Potential Dangers of Used Car Purchases
A recent New York Times report explored the process of purchasing a car at an auction lot in Queens, New York. While this particular auction lot made clear that all vehicles were sold “as-is,” such a status could conceal anything from minor cosmetic defects to deadly safety defects. What the reporters found was that:
It took the reporters less than a half-hour to run all 20 cars through a federal of safety defects — something any interested potential consumer can do. That search showed that half of the cars had been recalled for various reasons, including faulty ignition switches and Takata airbags, which between them have killed or injured hundreds of people worldwide.
However, while the auctioneer and auction company are explicit about their no return policy and frequently announce this fact during the auction, the specific defects each vehicle contained were never announced or mentioned. Unfortunately, this approach to vehicle sales presents problems regardless of whether the car or truck is purchased by a consumer or by a used car dealer.
Federal Regulations Do Not Require Disclosure or Repair of Safety Defects in Used Cars
Many people would likely assume that a purchase by a used car dealer would be the optimal scenario because the used car dealer will need to fix the problem, or at least disclose it before the sale is carried out. After all, federal requirements can stop the sale of new vehicles with known, open safety defects. Therefore, consumers are likely to assume that the same rules apply to used vehicles.
Unfortunately, despite urging by industry trade groups, many dealers do not repair or disclose defects prior to its sale. Making matter worse, many of these same dealerships may advertise the car or truck as being a “certified pre-owned vehicle” that underwent a “multi-point inspection.” Unfortunately, the Federal Trade Commission seems poised to normalize and sanction these types of confusing mixed messages.
Problems Regarding Consumer Purchases of Used Vehicles at Auction
The New York Times article also notes that not all of the purchasers at the lot were dealers or another repeat, sophisticated players. Also among the 50 or so bidders that attended the auction that day were numerous consumers. This seems to echo claims by some safety advocates who claim that many low-income individuals who can only spend several hundred dollars on a vehicle come to these lots. These consumers are well-intentioned, but faced with the prospect of losing their job due to transportation issues, some people will take a risk on a potentially dangerous vehicle.
While some would correctly point out that these consumers could search the federal database, this approach is not without its problems in a high-pressure, fast-moving auction environment. To start, the database itself is imperfect. Consumers can only search the VIN of a single vehicle at a time. Furthermore, consumers often report frustration with the system because it will log users off after only a few searches – ostensibly in an attempt to prevent misuse or data mining of the federal database.
Essentially, the question this scenario raises is why do we continue to bury information in federal databases that are frustrating for consumers to use? Not all consumers have equal access to these databases. Furthermore, this information is most relevant at the point of sale prior to the completion of the transaction.
Contact a Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyer If You Were Injured in an Accident With a Defective Vehicle
While the current regulatory approach may have made sense in a different time, today is simply failing to provide consumers with the information they need, when they need it. This perpetuates a cycle when unrepaired defective cars and trucks remain on the roads and unnecessarily increase the risk for all motorists. If you were hurt in a used vehicle with auto-defects, contact a Pennsylvania auto defect lawyer of The Reiff Law Firm.