TAKING ACTION: How to avoid buying used vehicles with unfixed recall defects

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TENNESSEE VALLEY - From side doors not working to exploding airbags to stalling engines, we have heard it all when it comes to vehicle recalls. Even more alarming, every year 25 percent of recalled vehicles never get fixed.

So if you are in the market for a used car, what can you do to avoid those with safety defects.

Consider the story of Kevin Phillips. He has his eye on a used Nissan Armada. These days, safety and recalls are top of mind for him.

"You just assume if I'm a customer giving and paying this much money, from a business, they're going to handle that already," he said.

But that's not always the case.

Dealers cannot sell new vehicles with open recalls. A recent law even forces rental car companies to fix recalls before renting the vehicles, but you do not get the same protection with used cars.

"Used cars can be sold with unfixed recalls," said Chris Basso with CARFAX. "These are things that can cause fires, crashes, exploding air bags, safety related issues that not only put the passengers of those vehicles at risk but other people on the road, as well."

There are ways to check for recalls before buying a used vehicle. CARFAX features a free recall check. The government provides a vehicle identification number (VIN) look-up tool. Certain apps will also scan VINs on the spot.

Even if you do purchase a vehicle with the recall unfixed, Basso said it can still be addressed.

"You can get practically any recalled vehicle fixed by simply calling a local dealer that services that part, make and model," he said.

David Koehler works for AutoNation. He said his company now puts a stop sale on all vehicles with open recalls.

"We don't believe it's reasonable to expect a consumer to know every recall that's available out there," he said.

AutoNation holds and tags recalled vehicles until they are fixed.

"We didn't feel that we could for one car deal, put one of our customers at risk," he added.

Koehler said the move has also brought repeat customers, like Phillips, back to the dealership.

"I know they've already done all the homework," said Phillips. "If I do end up buying it when it comes off the lot, it's not going to have any kind of recalls."

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