Selling a recalled car can be tough, especially if the manufacturer notice receives a lot of publicity. Such negative press may make potential buyers especially nervous.
However, auto recalls are issued practically every week and most are minor, says Mike Caudill, a spokesman for NADAguides.com, a vehicle information Web site.
“Recalls are a fact of life in the auto industry,” he says.
Because these repair notices occur so often, there’s a good chance your vehicle could be under a recall, too. Whether the defect is with a pedal, brakes, latch or other mechanical part, it could affect your car’s value.
The good news is that car sellers can still find an interested buyer if they’re willing to do some legwork, Caudill says.
Here are four tasks experts say every car owner should do before selling a vehicle with a recalled part. The advice applies to private sales as well as trade-ins.
1. Know what the government says about the recall
Before posting any “for sale” ads, review the “safety recalls” page on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, Web site to learn exactly what is being recalled, why, and when the recall was issued.
NHTSA is a government agency responsible for reducing auto-related injuries and loss by investigating and providing information about vehicle recalls, equipment defects, and other safety concerns.
Consumers can also bring their grievances to NHTSA, Caudill says, and car owners can use the agency’s database to search for those consumer complaints.
2. Get the defect repaired
Owners should have any defect repaired before listing the car for sale. When a driver’s car is recalled, a little lost time should be the only price a customer pays to fix the defect, says Scott Painter, CEO of TrueCar, a new car pricing Web site that shows consumers what other people paid for their car based on new car sales transactions.
“With recalls, owners are entitled to have the car fixed by the manufacturer at no charge,” Painter says.
Some dealers may even take extra steps to try to save the owner time, such as expediting appointment scheduling and offering free auto pickup, loaner cars and other services.
Consumers should get the car repair in a reasonable amount of time, especially if the recall is due to a part that wears, Painter says.
“When a problem is not addressed immediately, it can get worse,” he says. “You have the right to get a recall fixed, and you should.”
3. Find the car’s post-recall value
It’s also important to know a vehicle’s worth in light of a recall, Painter says.
Several auto-related Web sites can give owners an estimate of their car’s value, even after considering the effect of a recall. Larger auto valuation sites include Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book, NADAguides and TrueCar.
Even if the owner offers the car for a fair amount, potential buyers may try to negotiate much lower prices for vehicles with highly publicized recalls, Painter says. But owners don’t have to accept unreasonable offers.
“We’ve seen the wholesale value of some recalled cars drop 3 (percent) to 5 percent,” he says.
Such a relatively modest drop indicates dealers and individual owners don’t have to give their cars away, Painter says.
Owners who want to trade in their vehicle instead of selling it on the private market should visit a dealer to find the trade-in value, Painter says.
This price would likely be lower than what an owner could receive in a personal sale, Painter says. However, if the car is traded in, the owner would not have to worry about the hassle of scheduling recall service work, because the dealer would handle the recall in-house.
If the trade-in value seems unfairly low, owners may choose to shop around with other dealers, just as they’d do with any vehicle.
4. Provide documentation where needed
It’s up to a vehicle’s owner to accurately represent an auto when putting the car up for sale, Caudill says.
This involves being willing to provide information about maintenance and repair work related to recalls. Car owners who can provide all written service records — such as work orders, receipts and other maintenance documents — will likely attract more potential buyer interest in their vehicle, he says.
In addition to providing their own records, owners should keep abreast of any new recall developments being reported in the news, he says. This includes the release of new safety information from the manufacturer. Share this information with potential buyers to help ease any apprehension the buyer may have, Caudill says.
Caudill also notes that while it’s important for the seller to provide information, a serious buyer will probably want to do even more due diligence before any deals are made.
“It’s on the onus of the buyer to research the car,” Caudill says. “Don’t be surprised if they want to take the car to an independent mechanic to test it. That is the advice I always give to buyers.”