3OYS: Research recalls before buying used vehicles

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

BUCKEYE, Ariz. -- 3 On Your Side has a consumer warning for folks considering buying a used car.

Sometimes even if you test-drive the car and have it inspected by a mechanic, the one thing many consumers forget to do is check for open recalls.

Kenya Gill was behind the wheel of her very first car when all of a sudden, she got a big fright.

"Making a left-hand turn and the car completely switched off," she said.

Kenya drives a 2005 Chevy Cobalt and because of that scare, Kenya said she always drives with her flashers turned on as a warning to other drivers.

"I don't want to get into any accidents and I don't want to cause anybody else to get into any accidents," she said.

Kenya's car has a couple of high-profile recalls on it. In fact, they're recalls that have been all over the news recently. One of those recalls is for GM's faulty ignition switch, which she said is exactly why her car turned off while driving. However, she said the car salesman never said a word about the open recall.

"They should have told me," she said. "I asked them what's wrong with the car and they told me nothing's wrong with the car; it's a nice car.”

According to Carfax, buying cars with pending recalls happens all the time. Last year alone, 3.5 million used cars were sold with open safety recalls, something Carfax calls a major public safety issue. AAA Arizona also weighed in on the recall issue.

"Has the vehicle been recalled? Has it been in an accident? Is it a salvage title? Those are the things you definitely want to know," said Linda Gorman with AAA.

Gorman said buying a used vehicle requires a lot of research. While it's not against the law to sell used cars with manufacturer recalls, she said consumers need to do their own homework and never make an impulse decision.

Carfax offers a free recall check, but that won't give you everything you need to know. 

"So beyond the Carfax, you can take that VIN number and either contact the Department of Motor Vehicles and see if they can put out a search on the VIN or even the manufacturer to tell you a little more of the history of that vehicle," Gorman said.

We checked Kenya's car's VIN number on Carfax, and it does show a pair of open recalls on it. Kenya said she should have checked the VIN before, not after, she bought the car.

“So just make sure that you check, make sure this is what you want and you're not getting played by these people because all they want is money," she said.