1 in 4 Cars Sold by Carmax under Active Recall

Citizens for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS) is out with a report on used cars sold by Carmax. The results? 1 in 4 cars offered for sale by Carmax is under and active safety recall.

Tennessee lawmakers had an opportunity to prevent used car dealers from selling cars under recall this year, but refused to even hear the legislation in committee. 

Here’s more on the Carmax issue from CARS:

The nation’s largest retailer of used cars, CarMax, has more than doubled the percentage of dangerous, defective unrepaired recalled used cars for sale to consumers, according to Used Car Roulette, a new report released today by the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Foundation, MASSPIRG Education Fund, and the Center for Auto Safety.

The report is based on recent surveys conducted by the Frontier Group of nearly 1,700 vehicles CarMax advertised for sale in Northern and Southern California, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, compared with data about CarMax’s sales of unrepaired recalled cars in those states in 2015. The report also found that more than one in four cars for sale on the surveyed lots have unrepaired safety recalls.

“CarMax is selling huge numbers of unsafe, defective recalled cars that are ticking automotive time bombs. They pose a serious threat to the safety of all American motorists and their families,” said Rosemary Shahan, President of the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS) Foundation, a non-profit auto safety organization based in Sacramento, CA.

“Over the last two years CarMax has expanded across the state. Meanwhile our survey found one in four of their cars for sale is unsafe,” said Deirdre Cummings, Consumer Program Director for MASSPIRG Education Fund, a non-profit consumer protection organization in Massachusetts. “No one should have to gamble with their safety or the safety of those who share the roadways.”

“Recalls happen when there is an unreasonable safety risk or the car fails to meet a safety standard. Evidence of these defects is readily available to CarMax and calling an unrepaired recalled car ‘safe’ is deceptive on its face,” said Jason Levine, Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety, an independent, non-profit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, DC.

The survey of nearly 1,700 vehicles for sale at eight CarMax locations – four in Massachusetts, two in California, and two in Connecticut – found that more than one in four vehicles (27%) had unrepaired safety recalls. Researchers surveyed vehicles for sale at all four CarMax locations in Massachusetts (Danvers, North Attleboro, Norwood, and Westborough), two locations in California (Oxnard and Sacramento), and two in Connecticut (East Haven and Hartford). They found that:

  • More than one in four (27%) vehicles surveyed had unrepaired safety recalls.
  • At each of the 8 CarMax locations surveyed, at least 20% of vehicles CarMax advertised for sale had at least one unrepaired defect subject to a safety recall.
  • At North Attleboro MA, Westborough MA, and East Haven CT, more than 30% of vehicles CarMax offered for sale had at least one unrepaired safety recall defect.
  • On average, the percentage of vehicles with unrepaired safety recalls CarMax offered for sale has more than doubled, jumping from 12% to 27%, compared to survey results from 2015, which covered five of the eight locations newly surveyed.
  • In 2015, for example, 10% of vehicles sold at the Hartford CarMax location had unrepaired safety recalls. In the newly updated survey, 28% of vehicles at the same location had unrepaired safety recalls, an increase of 180%. In North Attleboro the percentage of vehicles with unrepaired safety recalls rose from 17 to 31%.
  • 43 vehicles had unrepaired safety recalls for which no repairs are available, so consumers who purchase them are stuck driving unsafe cars for an indefinite period before they can get the cars repaired.
  • The survey found 86 vehicles that had more than one unrepaired safety recall; 19 vehicles had 3 or more unrepaired safety recalls. One GMC Sierra Light Duty Pickup Truck for sale in Westborough had 6 unrepaired safety recalls.

“For a customer at CarMax, about one out of four cars they look at will contain an unsafe recalled part,” said Gideon Weissman of Frontier Group, report co-author. “Those are bad odds, and far worse than the results of surveys from just two years ago.”

It is dangerous and irresponsible for CarMax or other dealers to assume that car buyers will have time to get unsafe, defective vehicles repaired before disaster strikes. In one tragic case, a California Highway Patrol officer, his wife, their 13-year-old daughter, and his brother-in-law, were all killed by a runaway Toyota Lexus the same day, within hours after a dealer handed the CHP officer the keys. (That was the crash that led to the Toyota sudden acceleration recall, affecting millions of cars.)1

“It is illegal in Massachusetts for any car dealer to sell a used vehicle to a consumer that is not fit to be driven safely on the roads,” said Sebastian Korth, an attorney who specializes in representing Massachusetts consumers in cases against auto dealerships and lenders. Mr. Korth is representing Bonnie Belanger of Mansfield, MA in a case against a different dealership. On June 17, 2016, Ms. Belanger purchased a 2013 Chrysler Town & Country for approximately $19,000 from Fafama Auto Sales in Milford, MA. It was not disclosed to her that the minivan had two unrepaired safety recalls. In December of 2016, the driver’s door caught on fire without warning, just as described in the recall notice. Ms. Belanger says about her experience: “If you are buying a car from a licensed car dealer in our state, you shouldn’t have to worry they didn’t bother to get the free safety recall repairs done first. That’s their job, to make sure all the cars they sell are safe to drive before they sell them to a consumer.”

1 “CHP Releases 911 Tape in Officer’s Fiery Crash,” San Diego Union-Tribune, September 10, 2009. Posted at:


The consumer groups are calling on state law enforcement officials to curb CarMax’s sales of unsafe recalled cars, and on the Courts to overturn consent orders finalized by the Federal Trade Commission which allow dealers including CarMax to advertise that unsafe vehicles with unrepaired safety recalls are “safe,” “repaired for safety,” and passed a “rigorous inspection” and are offered for sale as “certified” cars, without getting the free repairs, if they merely disclose that the cars they offer for sale “may” have an “open recall.” Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, USPIRG, and the Center for Auto Safety are suing the FTC to get the consent orders overturned. The case is pending before the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
For more on consumer protections and our work in Tennessee, follow @TNCitizenAction



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