How To Know if Your Car Is Due for a Vehicle Recall Check

Recall checks are critically important. While a recall typically just means a quick trip to the mechanic, remember not to underestimate the importance of keeping up with major manufacturing defects in your vehicle. You can save both time and money.

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UPDATED: Mar 11, 2022

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Written By: Laura BerryReviewed By: Joel OhmanUPDATED: Mar 11, 2022Fact Checked

Here's what you need to know...

  • You should conduct a vehicle recall check before buying a used or new car, or if you have any safety or mechanical concerns
  • Keep your vehicle registration to date to avoid missing critical safety recall notices from your car’s manufacturer
  • Driving a car with a history of safety recalls or getting into an accident in a recalled car can increase your insurance prices

The process of manufacturing a car involves, quite literally, a lot of moving parts. It’s easy for something to go wrong along the way, but defects are often caught before a vehicle goes on the market. 

Sometimes, though, certain flaws fall through the cracks and go unnoticed, creating a safety issue for drivers. When that happens, the manufacturer needs to recall the car for repairs. 

You may not always know when a car has been recalled. A vehicle recall check can help keep you informed and avoid the costs of a dangerous manufacturing defect. This article will cover when — and why — you should conduct a vehicle recall check.

#1 — If You’re Buying A Used or New Car

Your car is due for its first recall check before it’s even “your car.” This is especially important if you’re buying a used vehicle. You can check for vehicle recalls using the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) search tool from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association or sign up for safety recall notifications through the SaferCar app.

New models are less likely to have been recalled since drivers have had less time to encounter any serious flaws in their functions. You should still run a recall check on a new car before buying it, but it’s unlikely that you’ll discover any noteworthy issues. 

Used cars are a more affordable option for many people, but they’re more likely to have been recalled than a new model. This isn’t just because a used car has been on the market longer, but also because a dealership can legally sell a used car without repairing it after a recall. 

If you conduct a vehicle recall check on a used car before purchasing it, you should be able to avoid additional costs, given that recall repairs are typically free. 

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#2 — If You Receive a Notification From the Manufacturer

Ideally, you won’t need to manually check for additional safety recalls on your vehicle. Manufacturers are required to notify you by mail if your car is recalled.

Despite this fact, millions of people continue to drive recalled, unrepaired vehicles. Many of them don’t actually know their vehicle has been recalled. While it’s simple enough to continue manually checking for car recalls, it’s easier to keep up with them by making sure you’re automatically notified, both physically and digitally.

Why wouldn’t I be notified?

It’s possible your car manufacturer wasn’t able to locate your current mailing address.

If you keep your vehicle registration up to date, your vehicle’s manufacturer shouldn’t have any issues notifying you about a recall on your car. Manufacturers use the contact information associated with your registration to send notices to you by mail. 

It’s also possible for mistakes to occur in the notification process. Your mail, for example, may have ended up in someone else’s mailbox, even if your correct current address is on file. Or, there’s always a chance that you accidentally tossed the notification out with other junk mail or left it in an unsorted pile.

Are there other ways of making sure I receive future recall notices?

Your vehicle manufacturer isn’t your only option for updates about safety defects in your vehicle. You can also sign up for email updates for your specific year, make, and model of car from the NHTSA. 

Ideally, it’s best to take the proper steps to receive notices from both the NHTSA and your car manufacturer. You’ll have a much easier time getting the information you need, allowing you to worry less about missing the notice and facing unnecessary risks.

#3 — If You Have Safety or Functionality Concerns When Driving

There may not technically be a recall out on your car yet, even if you’re experiencing issues that pose clear safety risks to yourself, your passengers, and other drivers. It can take some time before a manufacturer realizes there’s a flaw in the vehicle’s manufacturing. Often, a recall notice may only come in response to a high volume of insurance claims and complaints.

A problem that counts as a legitimate safety concern will likely be obvious to you right away. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, safety-related defects include problems that carry a clear risk of physical injury or increase the risk of a vehicle collision. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Accelerator controls that stick or break
  • Malfunctioning windshield wipers 
  • Airbags that deploy at an inappropriate time
  • Faulty wiring that poses a fire risk

Be on the lookout for the above concerns and anything else that seems off with your vehicle. If you’re concerned about safety, be sure to take action.

How should I report safety concerns for my vehicle?

If you know your car has at least one serious safety defect but can’t find any recall notices for the issue, you should file a report with the NHTSA immediately. 

You can file a report in two ways:

  • The NHTSA’s vehicle safety hotline
  • Online at safecar.gov

Information to include about the issue and vehicle model will be posted publicly. If they receive a sufficient number of complaints, the NHTSA will use the information to decide if a recall is warranted. Reporting this kind of issue in a timely manner may make a difference in the event of a legal dispute after an accident. 

What happens if a defect in my vehicle causes an accident?

If there’s a recall for a defect in your car that directly contributed to an accident, it could spell additional liability issues for you. 

Regardless of whether you were aware of a public recall for your vehicle, it’s your responsibility to have your car repaired as soon as possible. If you fail to do so, you may be held at least partially at fault for any injuries or damages resulting from an accident. 

What if there was no recall at the time of the accident?

You may find yourself dealing with the aftermath of a car accident today that later turns out to have been the result of a manufacturing defect. In the present moment, that may still mean repair costs and legal troubles you shouldn’t be liable for. 

Even if you have clear evidence that the manufacturer is at fault for an issue with your car and file a complaint with the NHTSA, it may be a long time before a recall is ultimately announced. 

That evidence is still important for managing liability concerns in the present. You should take photos or video at the scene, have the car inspected for safety issues by a mechanic, and record everything that happened in writing before, during, and after the incident. 

This is particularly important in the event that the manufacturer tries to hold you responsible to some degree for the accident. If the cause of a collision or other incident is determined to be a defect in the vehicle’s systems or components, the manufacturer is liable for any related injuries or property damage.

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Do car recalls affect my insurance rate?

Curious if recalls are one of the factors that can affect car insurance rates?

Vehicle recall checks aren’t just important for your physical safety. They matter for your insurance rates, too. 

That doesn’t mean your insurance is affected by the recall checks or repairs themselves. Both of these services are free and don’t require reimbursement. 

The risk of higher insurance rates comes into play when vehicle defects lead to accidents. Your insurance rate is tied partially to your safety rating. If a known issue with your car goes unaddressed, you may pay more for your insurance as a consequence. A vehicle recall check helps you stay ahead of this problem and keeps your costs lower. 

What happens if I miss a recall notice?

While the problem and the cost of repairs are the responsibility of the manufacturer, it’s your responsibility to keep up with automotive recalls and bring your car in to be fixed promptly. You’ll face higher insurance rates if you get into an accident because of an issue outlined in a recall that you ignored or missed. 

Higher premiums aren’t the only issue you may run into with your insurer, though. If you file a claim after an accident resulting from an unaddressed recall on your vehicle, it could be denied outright due to your negligence. 

Does the number of recalls on my car affect my insurance rate?

You’re more likely to be quoted costly rates from car insurance companies if your vehicle has been recalled multiple times. It may mean there’s a fundamental flaw in the car’s manufacturing process, which translates to a higher likelihood of an expensive car accident. 

This is another factor that’s crucial to consider before purchasing a car and why pre-purchase recall checks are so important.

Don’t Let Vehicle Recalls Raise Your Insurance Rates

A recall check is a critical part of staying financially informed when it comes to car insurance. Most of the time, a recall just means a quick trip to a mechanic, taking up only a small portion of your day. But don’t underestimate the importance of keeping up with major manufacturing defects in your vehicle. 

If you’ve been in an accident due to a recall or own a car with a history of multiple automotive recalls, you might face higher insurance costs, but you still have options for finding a rate you can afford.

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A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Written by Laura Berry
Former Insurance Agent Laura Berry

Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP® Joel Ohman

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