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Has my car been touched by a recall? How can I know?

2014 reportedly was a record year for the automobile industry. That's not a good thing when you consider that the record being talked about is the number of recalls issued.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 64 million cars, trucks and other vehicles were subject to recalls last year because of safety problems. That's higher than the number of all vehicles recalled in the previous three years.

It's important to remember that those recalls did not all apply to brand new vehicles. Most of them were for older models. And the reality is that more used cars exchange hands in this country than get sold off the new car showroom floor in a given year.

According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, in 2012, more than 14 million new vehicles were sold compared to more than 40 million in the used category. And according to Carfax, last year, there were an estimated 46 million cars and trucks on roads across the U.S. under recall, but which had not gotten the needed repairs.

Some vehicle defects are obvious; bald tires, cracks in windows, rusted through body parts. But there are many more that may not be seen. They deserve greater attention. If repair of dangerous products is neglected, safety can be greatly compromised. But how can you check the recall status of a vehicle you are considering buying? Here are some shared by The Associated Press.

  • Check with NHTSA. Every vehicle has a unique identification number. It's on that little plate on the driver's side of the dashboard near the bottom of the windshield. It's usually on your car's registration, too. Plug that number into the NHTSA VIN lookup site and you can get a report on outstanding recalls that apply.
  • Get a history report. You may have seen ads for Carfax. There are other companies offering such services. The reports aren't free, but it's a small price to pay for avoiding a possible accident. If you're buying the car through a dealer, you can ask the representative to check the status. Many dealers provide a report for free.
  • Buy certified pre-owned. These vehicles often sell at a premium, but the certification provides an extra layer of confidence in the event an accident involving a faulty part does occur.

Forearmed is forewarned.

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