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How to check if a car has been recalled before you buy it?
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How to check if a car has been recalled before you buy it?

With demand for used cars continually rising, it’s important that drivers ask all the right questions before they commit to a vehicle purchase. All the obvious questions that come to mind will cover service history, checking for damage to the car, the quality of the ...
Shabana Adam
November 2021
How to check if a car has been recalled before you buy it?

With demand for used cars continually rising, it’s important that drivers ask all the right questions before they commit to a vehicle purchase. All the obvious questions that come to mind will cover service history, checking for damage to the car, the quality of the tyres, and how long the warranty is. There’s one more area that consumers should keep in mind: to check if a car has been recalled before you buy it. 

What does it mean if a car has been recalled?

Every year, thousands of cars are recalled in the UK for a range of safety issues. When the car manufacturer or the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) discover a potential safety issue with a specific component on a vehicle, they will issue a recall for repairs. 

Recalls in recent times have happened due to more serious issues including the Ford Puma’s defective airbags, the Vauxhall Corsa’s potential fire risks, and Jaguar Land Rover’s 2019 recall over high, inaccurate CO2 emissions. In some cases, recalls can be down to minor technical issues such as faulty windscreen wipers. 

If you receive a recall notice, rest assured that any repair work is carried out for free. 

By law, the driver is responsible for making sure that their car is roadworthy. Therefore ignoring a recall could get you in trouble with authorities, and it may even affect any claims you make through your car insurance. Especially if a collision is found to be caused by the fault for which you received a recall notice and failed to comply with.

Furthermore, your car’s value may drastically reduce when you want to sell it on.

Why should I check if a car has been recalled?

When purchasing a used car, it’s advised to do a search and check if the car you want to buy has been the subject of a recall. This is because 10 percent of cars that have been recalled may not have had the required repairs to fix the problem. 

This could be due to a previous owner failing to follow up on the recall notice or it could be due to a lack of record updates by the car manufacturer, dealership, or the government, which means that the owner wasn’t notified of the recall. 

It’s fairly simple to do a quick search and check on a used car to see if it has been issued a recall notice. Below we show you how to check if a car has been recalled before you buy it, in just a few clicks. 

How to check if a car has been recalled

car recall check

Simply visit the DVSA website and check any car make and model for registered recall notices. You can search by registration number or by vehicle make and model. The result will show you if the car has a clean bill of health, displaying the message  “No outstanding safety recalls found” – or that the vehicle is subject to certain recalls for repairs that are still pending. 

This is also the page that will display the vehicle’s MOT history. 

If the recall only applied to a small number of cars, you can contact the dealership, or the manufacturer’s customer services and find out what recall repairs were carried out on the car you want to buy.

Who carries out recall repairs?

If a vehicle is issued a recall notice, the repair work is carried out by any of the manufacturer’s franchised dealerships for free. Therefore, if you do find that the used vehicle you want to purchase hasn’t had any recall repairs completed, you can still arrange for this to be done with the vehicle manufacturer.

How long does a recall repair take?

This all depends on the issue that needs to be fixed. Sometimes a recall repair just means a small tweak and that may be a matter of minutes. Other times, it may take a day or two. The manufacturer’s dealership will have the necessary information and experienced garages. They will advise you accordingly and make arrangements for the repair, which will include the use of a courtesy car if required.  

Get a second opinion and check the Motor Ombudsman

Alongside the Government website check, it may be useful to seek another option via the Motor Ombudsman’s Vehicle Recalls tab. Here, you can also enter the car’s VIN (vehicle identification number) which will provide an even more focused search of the vehicle’s existing records and the ability to link back to the manufacturer’s search tools as well.