Should I buy this Toyota with a scary recall?
July 10, 2015 8:27 PM   Subscribe

So I'm looking for a new car, and lucked into a 2007 Corolla that has only about 40K miles, is reasonably priced at $7.5K, has no rust (a big deal in Maine) and nothing sinister in its past. EXCEPT. In the course of my Carfaxing, I noticed it's subject (as of mid-June) to this terrifying recall.

My first thought was, "well, to hell with that, I'm not going to buy a car that's going to stab my husband in the chest with shrapnel." But I'm wondering if I'm overreacting. Also: I read in some of my perusals of the internet that this recall is now so huge it's affecting 1 in 7 cars on the road. Will I even be able to find a car that's NOT subject to the recall in my price range? I'm really feeling like this car is a very good deal for me, but obviously I don't want my passenger to die.

One bit decision-making factor I don't have the info about is that I'm not sure how long it's going to be before Toyota actually gets around to having the equipment ready to replace the airbag in my particular car (they're prioritizing cars in hot areas that are from older model years.)

So I'm somewhat terrified but also not wanting to pass something up that's good because I'm being irrationally terrified. Does anyone have specific knowledge of or experience with this recall that would help me make a decision? Thanks in advance.
posted by supercoollady to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
So call your nearest Toyota dealer and ask about having the recall repair done.

I'm the original owner of two Toyotas, and the dealership literally gives us zero friction about recall fixes. They get paid to do it, so I can't imagine it would be any different for a second owner.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:29 PM on July 10, 2015 [7 favorites]

Came here to say what Lyn Never said. Just have the dealer replace the airbag. And yeah, this affects a lot a lot a lot of cars.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:37 PM on July 10, 2015

To be fair, that recall effects every japanese brand, and GM, and ford, and daimler chrysler.

Who does that even leave? Basically every manufacturer sold in the US has a couple vehicles affected by this. Get the repair done and don't worry about it.

My partners old car was affected by this too. Free drop off overnight repair. Meh.

And yes, they're required to do it even if you aren't the original owner and do it about as effortlessly as costco accepts returns(which is to say "what uh... oh yea, ok, sure, have a nice day!")
posted by emptythought at 8:39 PM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

All, the problem is that this recall is so widespread that the airbag manufacturer cannot provide replacement parts fast enough. But certainly a squeaky customer will get in the recall queue earlier than someone not even aware their airbag has been recalled, so it certainly can't hurt to call a dealer. It just may not end up shortening the timeframe for being forced to drive around with a potentially dangerous airbag in your car.
posted by misterbrandt at 8:43 PM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

I got my Honda Civic airbags replaced last fall due to the recall, I am at least the second owner, my car has a salvage (rebuilt) title, and I had zero problems. As long as the car has a VIN number (and yours will), you are good to go.
posted by Maarika at 8:45 PM on July 10, 2015

Can you use the recall issue to negotiate price? In any case, recall means yo uget the repair done by the dealer at no cost. That's manageable.
posted by theora55 at 9:13 PM on July 10, 2015

The actual risk here is pretty small. According to Consumer Reports: Takata stated that it was aware of 88 ruptures in total: 67 on the driver’s side and 21 on the passenger’s side out of what it calculated was just over 1.2 million airbag deployments spread over 15 years. Despite these figures, airbags in general are not a danger.

So, the risk of a rupture is .0073% (that is 7.3 out of 100,000) accidents where the airbag deploys. Multiply this times the probablity that you have an accident that triggers the airbag during the time you own this car and the odds get even smaller. Compared to the other risks we take every day, I wouldn't lose sleep over this one.

Edit to add: multiply by the probability that you have an accident in the months that it takes to get the recall part installed and the risk gets even smaller.
posted by metahawk at 10:42 PM on July 10, 2015 [7 favorites]

Recalls aren't a big deal to deal with. Most of the dealerships I've taken my car to check for recalls it's subject to and just fix that while it's in for an oil change or whatever. It's not going to cost you anything to deal with except time.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:12 AM on July 11, 2015

Just wear your seatbelt, and don't rely on an airbag. Preferably, don't have an accident! The latter is the real point - the chances of having an accident requiring an airbag activation are pretty small, and with the low rupture rate, it is almost not worth worrying about. But you are worried, and I probably would be too.

In your place I would buy the car, drive carefully (as usual), and book it in for the fix as soon as possible.
posted by GeeEmm at 2:01 AM on July 11, 2015

Don't lose sleep over it. Toyotas tend to be great cars. Recalls are not supposed to be "terrifying," they're supposed to be a way to make cars even safer than they already are, which is pretty ridiculously safe compared to the way they were thirty or forty years ago.

The fix should be completely free. Car manufacturers go to some lengths to track down owners of recalled vehicles (DMV records, etc), but sometimes a change in ownership screws up the process. Don't be afraid to take it to a Toyota dealership and ask them to check. When they tell you it is subject to a recall and the parts aren't available for a little while, make sure you get put on their list. Then call back now and then. Be polite and mildly persistent, just shy of starting to be annoying, and the dealer is likely to get you in sooner rather than later to fix it.
posted by jgreco at 5:55 AM on July 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's a terrifying recall only if you've not been following the news. At this point, it's almost easier to list the vehicles not affected by the recall. If the Corolla is a good buy, I'd say get it. Then schedule the recall repair with a nearby Toyota dealer.

As others have pointed out, it's not a question of Toyota "getting around" to having the parts for the repair, it's a matter of Takata making enough replacement parts to fill the need.

You might actually have better luck taking your car to a dealership in a smaller town.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:08 AM on July 11, 2015

The faulty airbags are more dangerous in high heat and humidity environments like Florida. They should be safer in Maine. This may give you some peace of mind while you are waiting for the recall work to be done.
posted by monotreme at 9:58 AM on July 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I came here to say what monotreme already posted. Unless the car spent a lot of time in the southeast, I wouldn't worry about it, but I would contact the local Toyota dealership after you buy it to get in the queue for the recall repair.
posted by brianogilvie at 3:48 PM on July 11, 2015

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