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Purchasing a used car: Check for recalls

Used cars can be a great purchase when you know what you are looking for, but can be a money pit if you happen upon a lemon.

In my 2 decades of driving I have been the proud owner of five used cars, and I have to say so far I have been fortunate.

For the most part the luck I’ve had stems from the wisdom of others, who have bestowed some knowledge of how cars operate and how to keep them running.

But I have noticed more and more recalls on vehicles, either because of defects or stricter regulations. 

My fourth vehicle, which still operates and is used on occasion, had two recalls. 

The first was for the windshield wipers, the second for a seatbelt. 

While neither were issues that would prevent the vehicle from operating, I must admit both could potentially be life-threatening in certain situations. 

The windshield wiper issue was especially scary during rain storms, since the fault caused the wipers to stop moving while driving.

When purchasing a used car I always look for the typical stuff, wear on tires that could indicate the need for an alignment, oil leaks under the engine that could lead to failure, and of course how the vehicle operates under city and interstate driving. 

But I never thought to check for recalls until now.

When it comes to recalls there is no driving test. However, the Internet can help. 

By visiting https://vinrcl.safercar.gov you can enter the vehicle identification number or the model and year of the car you are considering for purchase. 

The next page will display what recalls have been issued and how the manufacturer is resolving the issue.