Wednesday, October 18

CarMax: Stop Selling Unsafe, Recalled Cars to Consumers features regular guest columns by the top consumer advocates in the USA. You may notice that these experts aren't shy when it comes to giving their opinion. We like that.

Rosemary ShahanFoolProof guest columnist Rosemary Shahan is President and Founder of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, an organisation dedicated to save lives, prevent injuries, and protect consumers from auto-related fraud and abuse.

CarMax is the largest used-car retailer in the U.S. They took in over $10 billion last year, and are publicly traded on Wall Street.

You've probably seen their ads claiming that every car they offer for sale has to pass a rigorous "125+-point inspection." That sounds very reassuring.

But what CarMax doesn't brag about in its ads is this: the company often fails to get federal safety recall repairs made on its cars, before selling them to consumers—even though they know a car has a safety defect and is being recalled. Instead, under pressure, they now mention, in fine print, with an asterisk, that "*CarMax does not guarantee a recall-free vehicle." That's because they don't bother taking defective, unsafe, recalled cars to franchised car dealers for free repairs before selling them to the public.

Safety Recalls Are Critical

Typical safety defects that trigger recalls: brake failures, exploding air bags that spew metal fragments at drivers and passengers, axles that break, ignition switches that make cars die in traffic, spontaneous combustion, and other life-threatening defects. Sometimes people have been injured or killed the same day a shady dealer handed them the keys to an unsafe car.

What CarMax says: CarMax claims "Only the best used cars become CarMax cars." But their claim doesn’t hold up to inspection.

Check out this ABC News 20/20 report from January of this year. Their undercover camera caught CarMax selling a car that had 3 safety recalls pending.

A CarMax Car Sale That Almost Ended in Disaster

Last May 19, Angela and Clarence Davidson bought a used 2010 Dodge Ram from CarMax in Irvine, CA. With children at home and in college, and a 5-year-old grandson, they wanted a safe car. Because the car was "CarMax Quality Certified," they believed it was safe.

But after they bought it, Chrysler told them the truck was recalled before CarMax sold it to them. The drive shaft was defective and likely to separate from the rear axle. CarMax had failed to get it repaired before selling it to the Davidsons.

When they tried to return the defective truck, CarMax refused, and told them it was now their problem, not CarMax's. So they took it to a Chrysler dealer for the safety recall repairs and thought it was fixed.

But on May 30, without warning, the truck fell apart on the freeway and caught on fire. The couple and their 12-year-old daughter barely escaped before the truck exploded into flames. It also caused a brush fire that closed down the freeway for about 4 hours.

They owned their "CarMax Quality Certified" truck just 11 days. Then it almost killed them. Here's one of the news reports about their experience.

How Can You Stay Safe?

Don't let this happen to you, or someone you love.


ABC News 20/20 undercover camera caught CarMax selling a car that had 3 safety recalls pending.

  1. Never buy a used car from anyone without checking the Vehicle Identification Number yourself first, to see if it has a safety defect that triggered a safety recall. Here's where you can check.

  2. If a car has an unrepaired safety recall, don't buy it until it's been repaired. It may be weeks or months before the repair parts are available.

  3. Shop for a used car at a dealership that sells the same brand, where they are more likely to perform the safety recall repairs. But even if you do buy from a same-brand dealership, always insist on checking the VIN yourself before you agree to buy.

How You Can Help

How can you help get CarMax to stop selling unsafe, recalled cars to consumers without getting the free repairs done first?

  • Join more than 93,000 people who have signed our petition on Tell CarMax to stop selling unsafe, recalled cars to consumers without getting the free repairs done first.

  • Like our safety campaign on Facebook

Anything you can do to help spread the word would be great!

Wishing you safe, happy motoring!

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