There’s no law stating that a dealership can’t sell a used car with any open recalls that haven’t been fixed. However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) prevents dealers from selling any unfixed new vehicles that have open recalls. You can buy a used car with an open recall, but it’s important you know what they are and make sure they've been completed before you finalize a purchase.

Checking for Open Recalls

Is it Legal to Sell a Used Car with an Open Recall?The best place to look for open recalls is by visiting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website. You simply need to type the car's vehicle identification number (VIN) number into the search bar, and it shows you any open recalls associated with that specific model. The NHTSA’s recall search tool looks at any safety repairs that aren’t complete and recalls conducted over the past 15 calendar years.

This is just one thing you should do before you sign the paperwork and get the keys to a used car. There are additional used vehicle buying steps you should take as well.

Used Car Buying Steps to Take

Before you even walk into a dealership, you need to create a budget. You can use our Payment Calculator to get an idea on how much car you can afford. You can see how different interest rates and loan terms can affect the monthly payment.

Next, you need to know where your credit stands by checking your credit reports. You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit reports every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus, and you can get them at Make sure all information is correct, and dispute any negative marks that are inaccurate to the reporting bureau. For your credit score, most lenders look at your FICO score. If your lending institution offers free access to your FICO score, you can get it there. If not, you can pay a small fee to get it through the credit bureaus on their websites or through FICO directly at

Then, you can research used vehicles online and visit dealers to test drive them. Take each car out for a test drive and check all buttons, switches, and screens to make sure they work. This is where checking for open recalls comes into play – just because a used vehicle seems to be working and ready to go on paper doesn’t necessarily mean it is. If you’re considering purchasing it, have a trusted mechanic take a final look for you. They can tell you if there’s anything wrong that hasn’t been reported, or if there’s potential for something to happen.

Buy a Used Car the Smart Way With Us

Buying a used car can be stressful and exciting all at the same time. You may want to jump right in and buy that used vehicle you found, but you need to take some steps ahead of that, especially if you have bad credit. Finding financing for a used car isn’t always easy with poor credit, and that’s why we want to help you.

At Auto Credit Express, we work with dealerships across the country that specialize in helping borrowers in unique credit situations get financing for new and used vehicles. Start the process today by submitting our easy and secure auto loan request form now!