How to sell a recalled car

Hand holding $1 bills with orange car in the background and flags
  • Wholesale value of recalled cars may drop 3 percent to 5 percent.
  • Providing documentation of repairs may help ease buyer concern.
  • Trade-ins allow owners to avoid the hassle of car repairs.

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, a vehicle information Web site.

"Recalls are a fact of life in the auto industry," he says.

Find the best auto rates can help you find the best auto loan rate.

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.

Show Bankrate's community sharing policy
          Connect with us


Tara Baukus Mello

4 best bits of winter driving advice

A drag racing champ offers advice if you need to get behind the wheel during blustery winter weather.  ... Read more

Connect with us