Can a Dealer Low-Ball My Trade Because It Has a Recall?

Photo credit: Jalopnik/Patrick George
Photo credit: Jalopnik/Patrick George

As Jalopnik’s resident car buying expert and professional car shopper, I get emails. Lots of emails. Sometimes folks get into a tough spot or don’t know what to do, so I’ve decided to pick a few questions and try to help out.

First up:

I have a 2014 A6 TDI that I want to replace. I went to the dealer (not Audi), and asked them to look at my car for a trade. They pulled a Carfax on it, and it said there was a recall on it for an occupant sensor in the passenger seat and that there was currently not a fix for it.

Dealers are waiting for parts and will be several more months before they get them. Because of that, the new car dealer says they can’t sell it and would have to wholesale it out, so I lose money on the deal. This sounds like BS to me. What is going on here?


It is true that some A6/A7 cars have an open recall that there is no current solution for. This makes these cars difficult to sell and in some cases, Audi will not allow their own dealers to retail these cars with an open recall on them. Other stores are not prohibited from selling these vehicles but obviously, a car with an open recall, with no imminent repair solution, is not worth as much as it would be without that issue.

A dealer is really only interested in giving you a decent price for a trade if they can make some money on it. Remember, a dealer is under no obligation to buy your trade, nor are they obligated to give you the price you want. This is an unfortunate situation, but the problem is coming from Audi, not this dealership.


My quick car buying question is really more of a car ‘selling’ question. I should note my wife and I are not in the market for a new car right now. We received a flier from a local Ford dealer telling us all the money we could potentially get for her 2012 ford focus if we traded it in. Before I threw this in the trash as normal, one line stuck out at me.

In their words ‘Ford is ordering us to buy back certain models and your Focus qualifies!” After reading that line, I rolled my eyes and THEN threw the flier in the trash. But it got me thinking, can a manufacturer actually do such a thing? Or is this a case of the dealer trying to A. sell us a car and B. get another used car to sell and using this line to entice people in?

This isn’t, to my knowledge, anything to do with a lemon law, it’s been in the family for almost a decade and never given us trouble. Any insight?


This sounds like the classic “we need your car” trade-in tactics to get you into something new. Ford does not currently have a national campaign ordering them to buy back 2012 Ford Focus models. While that particular year had a lot of issues you seemed to luck out. If there was indeed an actual buyback program, you would have been contacted directly by the manufacturer.

Lighting round!

When buying a CPO from a dealer, (not referring to general used car lots, but from the actual dealer) is it still advised to buy a car report?


No, you shouldn’t have to purchase vehicle history reports on your own. Almost every dealer has a subscription to either Carfax or Autocheck, both provide basically the same thing. If the report is not listed on the dealer’s ad, request that they send you a copy.


I just purchased the about vehicle and would like to get better gas mileage, but unable to figure out how. I’m only getting about 22 miles to the gallon with the hybrid and I should be getting 28 to 35. Any suggestions?


Remember, those EPA estimates are in very controlled conditions, the classic caveat of “your mileage may vary” still applies. It could be your driving style or the types of traffic conditions you are encountering that is impacting your mileage.

Can I return a car 2 weeks later for having so many problems with it?

Usually no, once you sign that sales contract you are pretty much stuck with it. If you think the dealer knowingly sold you a car with problems you can consult with a local consumer protection attorney.


Got a car buying conundrum that you need some assistance with? Email me at!

Tom is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs He saves people money and takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. (

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“we need your car”I loved getting those from a Volvo dealer, I was unaware of the market for 740 wagons with 800000km on them