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S. 900 (114th): Used Car Safety Recall Repair Act

This month saw the largest safety recall in American history: approximately 43 to 48 million car airbags made by the company Takata, which are currently in some 34 million vehicles in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) made the announcement after 10 confirmed fatalities occurred from metal shards in the airbags, killing passengers that the devices were intended to save.

(Important side note: check here to see if your car is among those covered under the recall. It could save your life.)

Current federal law prevents selling new recalled cars until they are repaired but does not impose the same requirement on used cars. In light of last week’s historic announcement, the issue is back in the headlines again — as is an October bill introduced in Congress to close this discrepancy.

What the bill does

S. 900, the Used Car Safety Recall Repair Act, was introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). The bill would create a federal requirement that used cars with recalled parts cannot be resold until they are repaired, just as new cars currently are. That’s important because an estimated 23 percent of cars with recalled parts don’t get fixed.

In other words, currently if you’re buying a used car with components that had previously been recalled, there’s a decent chance you may be purchasing a still-defective model. There’s no guarantee it’s safe. As a result, there are example after example after example of drivers dying as a result of this oversight.

What supporters say

Supporters say the bill will save lives and fix a discrepancy between new and used cars that currently serves more as a loophole than having any legitimate purpose.

“There are now more than 46 million cars and trucks on our nation’s roads with unrepaired safety recalls; last year alone, five million used cars subject to safety recalls were sold to new owners without the necessary repairs,” Blumenthal said in a press release announcing the bill. “This critical legislation will protect consumers and help reduce the number of unsafe cars on the road.”

What opponents say

The bill is opposed by most Republicans who say it represents yet another onerous regulation on businesses.

Steve Jordan, CEO of the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association (NIADA), said:

> “Not all recalls are equal. Some recalls are safety-related, and others aren’t. Is it reasonable to impose a federal law prohibiting a vehicle sale due to a recall involving a misprint in an owner’s manual or a radio malfunction, even after disclosing it to the customer?”

He also noted that the Transportation Department has said it’s okay to drive vehicles with recalled components while waiting for parts.

Odds of passage

With only one other cosponsor so far, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), the odds don’t look great on this one. But with the headline-grabbing recall and consumer worry, this could potentially gain traction if more deaths occur.

Last updated May 16, 2016. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Apr 13, 2015.

Used Car Safety Recall Repair Act

Prohibits a dealer from selling or leasing a used passenger motor vehicle until a defect of the motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment or noncompliance with a federal motor vehicle safety standard has been remedied.