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If your car has been recalled, the manufacturer will usually repair it at a local dealership. In rare instances when a manufacturer determines that a problem is too expensive to repair, it may replace the vehicle or refund your purchase price minus an amount to cover depreciation.

There are two types of auto recalls: voluntary ones by the vehicle manufacturer and ones required by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Recalls are usually issued to improve your car, but not all recalls address safety problems.

How will I know if there’s been a recall on my car?

The carmaker is supposed to contact you. Be on the lookout for any mail from the manufacturer or phone calls from the dealership where you bought your car. Manufacturers must tell all registered owners about any recalls.

How can I be sure I will receive a recall notice?

If you purchased your vehicle new, you should be listed as the owner in the manufacturer’s records. However if you bought it used, you may not be. Contact the manufacturer and make sure they have you listed as the vehicle’s owner, and that they have your contact information. You can also go to the manufacturer’s website and register your contact information using your car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

I’m car shopping. Should I be looking for recall information?

Always check to see if a vehicle has been recalled before you buy it. If there has been a recall, a franchise dealer may have already fixed the problem, but a used car dealer may not be obligated to see if a car has been subject to a recall. Do your homework and double-check recalls to stay safe and avoid problems.

How can I tell if a car has ever been recalled, or if the repair has been completed?

NHTSA maintains a database of information about automobile recalls. You can enter the car’s VIN online and learn its recall history and repair status. You can also call the Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236 to see if a car has ever been recalled.

I bought the car used. Will the manufacturer pay for the fix?

You’re still eligible to receive recall notices and get the problem fixed. The manufacturer will usually repair or replace the vehicle for you at no charge if your car is less than 10 years old. Unfortunately, if your car is more than 10 years old, you will likely be responsible for repairs.

What if I had the problem repaired before the manufacturer issued the recall?

You could still get reimbursed by the manufacturer. If you’re contacted about a motor vehicle recall for something you already replaced, act quickly. Locate your copy of the paperwork from the repair and use it to make your case for getting your money back.