Consumers for Auto
Reliability and Safety ®

Resources for Car Buyers

Look up Safety Recalls
Be sure to ALWAYS check the safety recall status of any car before you buy. If it has a safety recall pending, it could KILL you and your passengers. It's basically a ticking time bomb. Don't buy it until AFTER the recall repairs have been performed. People have been killed or seriously injured within hours or days of buying a car with safety defects that led to a recall. According to Carfax, there are 36 million vehicles on the road today that have unrepaired safety recalls. Typical problems that trigger safety recalls:
  • brakes that fail
  • axles that fall apart
  • vehicles that burst into flames without warning
  • air bags that explode when there's no crash
  • steering loss
  • cars that die in traffic
  • seat belts that don't work
Also visit this site to find out whether the car you own now has a recall that was never fixed. All it takes is the Vehicle Identification Number. That's on the dashboard, and also on a sticker on the driver's door jamb. Or if you already own the car, it's on your registration and also on your car insurance documents.

Save thousands of dollars
Get a better, safer car
Avoid common auto dealer scams
To make sure that your hard earned money buys you a car that is safe and that you can feel assured is a good value for the money you spent, follow these guidelines so that you can be prepared before you sign that bill of sale.

NHTSA Crash Testing
Insurance Institute for
Highway Safety photo.
Get auto safety information:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Find out about vehicle safety recalls. Get advice about safer cars for teenagers. Check crash tests results. Learn about how to properly secure child safety seats. Get technical service bulletins from auto manufacturers that document common problems. File a safety complaint.

Search vehicle history:
Don't get stuck with an unsafe rebuilt wreck. Check here before you buy. The U.S. Department of Justice established this database to provide lifesaving information about cars so severely damaged they were "totaled" by insurance companies. This is the most important used car database, and it's also the least expensive. No other database has the same information. Note: Even if a car has a "clean" vehicle history report, get it inspected by a trusted technician and body shop before you agree to buy it, and take it for a test drive. An online check is only the first step.

Find a consumer attorney:
The National Association of Consumer Attorneys lists pro-consumer attorneys by state and area of expertise. Many are willing to talk with consumers for free and give you some idea what your rights are. Be sure to ask them if they will represent you on a contingency basis, which makes getting legal help more affordable and less risky for you. Many consumer protection laws provide for you to get your attorneys fees paid by the business that harmed you, if/when you win.

NHTSA Crash Testing
C.A.R.S. archive photo.
Find a reliable mechanic:
National Public Radio's Car Talk's Mechanics Files is a great place to find a skilled auto technician who gets rave reviews. Look here before you go car shopping, to find auto experts who will give cars a thorough inspection before you buy. You're going to need a reliable mechanic anyway. Shop for the mechanic before you shop for the car, and save yourself a lot of money and headaches.

Get more auto safety information:
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety performs more crash tests and makes recommendations for safer cars. Find ratings of child booster seats. Find which cars offer better protection from whiplash or other devastating injuries from rear-end collisions. Learn which cars have energy-absorbing bumpers that can save you thousands in repair costs.

For California Consumers ONLY
California offers a low-cost auto insurance program that makes driving legally in California more affordable for lower income car owners.

Read more:
To find out whether your state offers a similar deal, visit the website for the Department of Insurance in your state.
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fatalities, injuries, and economic
losses through education, outreach,
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ABC 20/20 investigation:
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Avoid buying cars with killer safety defects
Buyer beware: NEVER trust that a dealer will have the safety recall repairs performed before selling you a car that is being recalled. Dealers are so eager to make a buck, fast, they are unwilling to delay sales long enough to get the safety recall repairs done -- for FREE.

The CARS Foundation's tips on how to buy a safe, reliable used car — without having to risk going to a dealer:
Top 12 used car buying tips
12 used car buying tips that can save you thousands of dollars and help you avoid lemons and cars with killer safety defects

Did a dealer sell you an unsafe, recalled car? We want to hear your story. Contact The CARS Foundation

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