Do Car Recalls Have To Be Done At The Dealership?

Do Car Recalls Have To Be Done At The Dealership?

Last Updated on September 28, 2023

If you own a car, there’s a good chance it will eventually be subject to a recall. But do car recalls have to be done at the dealership?

Yes, if you want to have the recall repair fixed for free, it has be performed at the dealership. If the recall fix is performed at an independent mechanic, you will be responsible for 100% of the repair costs.

There’s no doubt that independent mechanics often offer great service for routine car repairs and maintenance. Truth is, when addressing recalls, the dealership’s expertise makes them more qualified.

In fact, the car dealership more than likely has already serviced dozens of cars for the exact same recall repair.

The car dealership sounds like a no-brainer when it comes to recalls, right? Let’s dive into this subject more shall we!

Can The Dealership Charge Me For A Recall Repair?

No, the dealership should not charge you for a recall fix. But it all depends on how old the vehicle is. Federal law mandates free safety recall repairs for cars 15 years old or newer.

However, if your car is more than 15 years old the dealership may charge you for the fix. But don’t give up hope, you might still be eligible for a safety recall repair free of charge.

Call the vehicle manufacturer directly and let them know your situation. If the manufacturer refuses to honor the recall notice, contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Vehicle recalls are typically overseen by the NHTSA. If you encounter issues getting the recall repair done for free, you can file a complaint with the NHTSA. Their website provides a platform for this.

Can The Dealership Deny Fixing A Recall Repair?

Yes, even though federal laws require car manufacturers to make safety recall repairs, a dealership might refuse the repair.

For instance, if the vehicle has a salvaged or flood title, the dealership might deny repairs for liability reasons.

The concern for the dealership is, if there is ever a crash later, the dealership might be held responsible.

If your vehicle has a salvage or flood title and there’s a recall, contact the car manufacturer for guidance.

They should guide you to a dealership ready to repair recall issues on salvage or flood-titled vehicles.

How Long Does It Take The Dealership To Fix a Recalled Car?

Fixing your car’s recall can take hours to days, depending on its severity and type. Some repairs can even be performed at home through an over-the-air software update.

However, there have been cases when the parts to fix the vehicle aren’t readily available.

Such was the case for the now famous Takata airbag recall of 2011. There was 65-70 million defective Takata airbag inflators recalled by a total of 19 automakers.

In fact, it took the manufacturer ten years to meet the demand for airbag inflators! The NHTSA at the time even called it “the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history.”

Simply put, the Takata airbag inflator recall was massive, and not your typical car recall. However, if the recalled car part isn’t available, the auto manufacturer will send out notification letters to all affected when replacement parts might be available.

Below is an example of what a recall notice may look like.

Recall notice example
Here’s a sample format of a recall notice letter.

Will I Get a Loaner Car?

In the event that you need a loaner car, most dealerships will provide one without even asking. In fact, many auto manufacturers have policies enabling them to loan out vehicles for days or weeks.

However, there is no law requiring car manufacturers to provide a loaner vehicle for recall repairs. Each auto manufacturer has its own policies on how they handle loaner vehicles. Often, this can make it challenging for consumers to navigate.

If you’re in need of a loaner car while your recall repair is being completed, it’s best to ask the dealership if they can assist.

What if the Dealership Refuses to Provide a Loaner Car For a Recall Fix?

If a dealership refuses to offer a loaner car for a recall fix, first understand your rights. Some recalls may require manufacturers to offer loaners or rental reimbursements, but not all.

If denied a loaner, speak with the dealership management. If all else fails, reach out to the manufacturer’s customer service for intervention on their loaner policy.

In the U.S., federal law doesn’t always require automakers to provide a loaner car for recall repairs. Truth is, whether a loaner is provided largely depends on the automaker’s policy or the dealership’s discretion.

What Factors Influence Getting a Loaner Car?

Whether a loaner vehicle is provided during recalls depends on factors:

  • Recall severity
  • Part delays
  • State rules
  • Brand policy
  • Repair time.

Vehicle owners should check the recall letter or call their dealership about loaner availability.

Should I Be Concerned My Car Was Recalled?

Not at all, if your car was recalled, it means the manufacturer is addressing a potential safety issue. In fact, every year millions of vehicles are recalled for problems ranging from software issues, brake problems and defective EV batteries.

The car industry is among the most closely watched, evident by the number of recalls each year.

It’s important to note that not all recalls are created equal. Some are more directly related to safety, such as airbags, braking and steering components.

Others can be more minor, like leaky sunroofs or detached spoilers from a vehicle’s trunk.

However, if you get a “do not drive” notice in the recall notification, it means the vehicle is unsafe to drive. It’s best to park it and have the vehicle towed to the nearest dealership.

Such recalls are rare, but if you receive one, it’s wise to park your car and heed the warning.

Final Thoughts: Do Car Recalls Have To Be Done At The Dealership

If you’re dealing with a recall on your vehicle, and you find yourself asking do car recalls have to be done at the dealership, hopefully this post has answered all your questions.

Indeed, the dealership is fully equipped to manage the repair, and the fix won’t cost you anything.

If you need a loaner while your car is in for service, the dealership can help with that too.

Sure, independent mechanics are a great option for routine car repairs. But when it comes to recalls, the dealership is the go-to option.

Taking your car to the dealership for recall work ensures the job is done correctly and all required parts are replaced or repaired according to recall guidelines.

Check for open recalls on your vehicle by using our Car Recall Lookup tool.

Vehicle reliability research tool.

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