One-In-Four Cars Sold At CarMax Locations Had Open Safety Recalls (UPDATED)

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

More than 25 percent of used vehicles sold at eight CarMax locations across the U.S. contained safety defects that weren’t repaired, despite being under recall, according to a review by car safety advocates. Some of the cars included unrepaired Takata airbags, which have been linked to numerous deaths.

Problems with used cars with open recalls being sold aren’t new. But the study—conducted by the Center For Auto Safety, the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Foundation and the MASSPIRG Education Fund—found sales of vehicles with unfixed safety recalls have doubled, compared to a previous sutdy in 2015 that looked at five CarMax locations.


The review—which can be found here—looked at nearly 1,700 vehicles being sold at locations in California, Massachusetts and Connecticut. A total of 461 contained at least one safety defect under recall and not yet repaired. Of that, 41 had a recall for which a repair is no longer available, 45 contained air bag inflators made by Takata.

“Data documenting these defects is readily available to CarMax which makes calling an unrepaired recalled car ‘safe’ is deceptive on its face,” said Jason Levine, the Center for Auto Safety’s executive director, in a statement.

Regulators have focused on the practice in recent years. Earlier this year, New York’s state attorney general, Eric Schneiderman reached a settlement with auto dealers in the state to provide a disclosure of open recalls to potential buyers.

General Motors and a pair of auto dealers reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission last year over allegations they sold used vehicles with open recalls, despite being marketed as safe to drive.


Update, 1:15 p.m.: CarMax sent the following statement:

CarMax has led the industry in recall transparency and shares vehicle specific recall information in-store and online. Every vehicle on and on CarMax’s mobile apps includes a link to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall lookup website, with the VIN pre-populated, allowing customers to obtain open recall information on any CarMax used vehicle. Before any customer purchases a used vehicle, a CarMax associate and the customer review the recall information available on the NHTSA website. After this initial review, customers sign a form acknowledging receipt of the NHTSA recall information prior to signing sales documents.

The current recall system is based on the manufacturer’s relationship with its dealers and registered vehicle owners, and not with independent used auto retailers, like CarMax. Among other things, this means that manufacturers have not authorized CarMax to complete recall repairs and close out recalls. Our experience shows us customers are in the best position to act on recall information directly with a manufacturer-authorized dealer. We have found that dealers are often more likely to provide timely recall repair to customers rather than to a competitor, like CarMax, so we encourage customers to have recalls repaired at a manufacturer-authorized facility.


The unprecedented number of manufacturer recalls is an issue that deserves all of our attention. Manufacturers recalled more than 150 million vehicles from 2014-2016, with record levels in each year. America’s recall system is broken and legislators must solve this problem at the root cause – manufacturers producing vehicles with recalls at historic levels and not ensuring that parts and remedies are available to fix them. Manufacturers do not allow CarMax to complete recall repairs and close out recalls at our stores.

Senior Reporter, Jalopnik/Special Projects Desk

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This is easy. Pass federal registration that recalled cars can not be registered if a recall is open for more than a year from the time repairs are available. Dont say it cant be done, it can.

Insurance companies have a vested interest in this as well.