by Brian Wolfman
California legislators are considering requiring used car sellers to fix cars subject to government safety recalls before they re-sell those cars to unsuspecting customers. The idea is that consumers should not be buying used cars that the government says have bad brakes or faulty, fire-prone wiring. Legislation on the topic could affect a lot of cars. As The Consumerist's Chris Morran explains, "[a]ccording to a 2011 survey, there were 2.7 million used vehicles
available for purchase that had at least one un-repaired safety recall."
You might take a caveat emptor approach, and make consumers thinking about buying a used car do their own homework, which is made easier by the availabilty of the federal government's vehicle and safety complaint database. But there will still be many unsuspecting consumers out there, and legislators might rightly be concerned with their safety and the safety of their families. Moreover, many vehicle safety issues — faulty brakes, for instance — implicate the safety of people in other vehicles. And, finally, notice to the immediate prospective buyer is not the only issue. If the cars are not fixed, someone, somewhere, at some point is likely to buy a used car that is subject to a safety recall.
It seems like an easy call to say that rental car companies should not be able to rent cars that are subject to government safety recalls and have not been fixed. Senator Barbara Boxer sponsored legislation to prohibit those rentals, but it appears to have died. But the proposed legislation apparently prompted five of the major car rental companies to agree on their own not to rent unfixed, recalled cars.