Protecting the public from unsafe recalled cars

New bill filed in Congress to outlaw sale of unsafe, recalled cars.

CarMax press conference
Caley McGuane | Used by permission
Deirdre Cummings of MASSPIRG joined by Sean Kane, Safety Research & Strategies in front of a used car purchased at CarMax with 4 unrepaired safety recalls.

U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced legislation this week to ensure the safety and reliability of used cars. The legislation, the Used Car Safety Recall Repair Act, requires car dealers to repair any outstanding safety recalls in used cars prior to selling, leasing, or loaning them to consumers. 

“This bill will put the brakes on the sale of dangerous used cars,” said Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG’s legislative director who praised Senators Blumenthal, Markey and Warren for filing the bill. “Consumers, rightly so, have the expectation that when shopping at used car dealerships they are being sold safe cars, and at the very least, they certainly would not expect for sale any car that is still under a safety recall.” 

According to the CDC, vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and serious injury among people under 54 years of age in the United states. In addition to the immeasurable grief and pain they cause, they also cost our nation over $340 billion annually.

In 2017, MASSPIRG and Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Foundation released Used Car Roulette, a report which found that more than 1 in 4 cars for sale at the nation’s largest retailer of used cars, CarMax, had unrepaired safety recalls, double the number from a previous survey done 2 years earlier.  

The report, based on surveys conducted by the Frontier Group of nearly 1,700 vehicles CarMax advertised for sale in Northern and Southern California, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, compared with data about CarMax’s sales of unrepaired recalled cars in those states in 2015. 

Recalls happen when there is an unreasonable safety risk or the car fails to meet a safety standard. Evidence of defects is readily available to everyone, including car sales companies. “New cars can’t be sold with an open recall, why should used cars be an exception?  This bill is important to close the gap on safety and protect buyers,” said longtime safety advocate Sean Kane, of Safety Research & Strategies and one of MASSPIRG’s partners in our local efforts to protect Baystaters from unsafe cars. 

Passage of this bill will protect not just those of us in the car, but all of us who share the roadways. 


Deirdre Cummings

Legislative Director, MASSPIRG

Deirdre runs MASSPIRG’s public health, consumer protection and tax and budget programs. Deirdre has led campaigns to improve public records law and require all state spending to be transparent and available on an easy-to-use website, close $400 million in corporate tax loopholes, protect the state’s retail sales laws to reduce overcharges and preserve price disclosures, reduce costs of health insurance and prescription drugs, and more. Deirdre also oversees a Consumer Action Center in Weymouth, Mass., which has mediated 17,000 complaints and returned $4 million to Massachusetts consumers since 1989. Deirdre currently resides in Maynard, Mass., with her family. Over the years she has visited all but one of the state's 351 towns — Gosnold.

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