Consumer Tips: Automobile Recalls and Fraud

Automobiles are one of the most recalled products out in the market today. Every month you hear about this model being recalled or that model being under investigation for some sort of faulty part, seatbelt, or possible leak.

In 2000, nearly 25 million automobiles were recalled by the combined auto industry. Nearly 550 types of automobiles were recalled that year. GM notably has had approximately 10.5 million automobiles recalled in North America alone.

Buying Used Automobiles and Fraud

One way in which consumers may experience fraud concerning automobiles involves the sale of so-called 'flood cars'. Flood cars are automobiles damaged from having been submerged in a body of water or have experienced extensive damage during a hurricane or severe thunderstorm. These cars are usually sold for junk after a major hurricane has hit and flooded a region due to their motors and engines rusting and having lots of internal engine damage.

In 2004, over 120,000 known flood cars were sold to unassuming consumers unaware of the extensive engine damage the cars had experienced. In 2005, one of the nation's worst hurricanes struck the South, mainly Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida. We urge you to take precautions when purchasing a used automobile as the car you may purchase may have experienced damage due to the hurricane.

Questions to ask the vehicle seller to better determine a car's history:

  • Is the vehicle rebuilt?
  • Has the car been government inspected? If so, can I see the document?
  • Is the vehicle from out of state?
  • Is this the car's original mileage?
  • Does the car have a warranty?

If you are in need of legal assistance, consult with an attorney in your area to discuss the details of your case.

Other things to check on a used car:

  • Oil – is it whitish? Do you see white bubbles? If so, it could be a sign of mechanical damage.
  • Radiator fluid – should not have signs of rust.
  • Transmission fluid – should not be dark brown or smelly.
  • Body – look for signs of rust around the bumpers, under doors, fenders, and wheel wells.
  • Tires – look for uneven wear which could indicate bad alignment or damage to the suspension.
  • Doors – check that they open and close easily and do not sit unevenly in the frame.
  • Interior – check for wear and tear on the seats and under floor mats. Does the mileage on the odometer match the level of wear inside the car?
  • VIN number – this is the vehicle identification number. The VIN that is located on the driver's side dashboard should match to the number found on the registration paperwork. Conduct a history search on the VIN either through the Department of Motor Vehicles or another commercial source. A search can indicate if the vehicle is a salvage car.

Taking precautions and preventative actions prior to buying a used vehicle can save you money and heartache in the long run. In the unfortunate event that you have been sold a lemon or think you have been a victim of automobile fraud, contact a consumer protection attorney who can discuss your options with you.