Auto Safety

Americans Support Congress Banning the Sale of Used Cars with Open Recalls

Statement of Jack Gillis, Consumer Federation of America, in Support of a Ban on the Sale of Used Cars with Open Recalls

Washington D.C. — There are few, if any products on the U.S. market that have a greater impact on the public health of American’s than the automobile.  In addition, their economic impact is also extraordinary, with new and used cars representing over 1 trillion consumer dollars in sales. Yet with so many lives, injuries and consumer dollars at stake, Congress is choosing to underfund the one agency that has the potential to reduce the tragic toll that vehicles take on America’s public health. Taking money away from an 850 million dollar agency trying to regulate a trillion dollar industry is simply unconscionable.

What is particularly tragic is that in the face of record numbers of recalls, serious safety defects that have been uncovered and acknowledged, Congress is choosing to ignore the plight of the vast number of the car buyers who can only afford to buy used cars and not require that recalled problems be fixed before the cars are sold.

About 75% of total car sales are to buyers of used cars.  With about 100 million vehicles recalled in the past 3 years, there’s a very, very good chance that a used car for sale will have an open recall.  As Senator Markey has noted, as you drive down the road, 1 of every 6 cars you pass may have an open recall.  There is absolutely no reason that sellers should be allowed to sell ANY product with a known defect, let alone one that is already responsible for enormous and tragic deaths and injuries.  The rental car companies, whose financial success depends on rapidly renting vehicles, will have to comply with requirements not to rent unsafe cars, so there is no reason why used car sellers shouldn’t meet the same requirements.  Furthermore, as the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety survey reveals, the American public agrees. Over 80% of the respondents oppose the sale of vehicles with open recalls.  What is remarkable about the survey results is that this support is consistent among Americans regardless of their politics, where they live and race.  Everyone wants the sale of unsafe vehicles stopped.  For detailed survey results go to

The Consumer Federation of America stands behind and appreciates the work of Senators Markey, Blumenthal and Wicker as well as Congresswoman Schakowsky in standing up for millions and millions of Americans who need to buy used cars.  What is particularly tragic is that these leaders have identified problems that can be solved, while the majority in Congress drags their feet.

Jack Gillis is Director of Public Affairs at the Consumer Federation of America and author of The Car Book.

CFA is an association of more than 250 nonprofit consumer groups that was founded in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy and education.