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Should You Buy a Recalled Used Hyundai?

There are certain cases when it makes sense to buy a used Hyundai under recall. Other times you should run, not walk but run, away.


There’s been a lot of news lately about used Hyundais being under recall for engine problems and potential engine fires. That might make you wonder if you should buy a used Hyundai under recall.

The qualified answer is maybe. Make sure the price is right if you must buy one.

As reported previously, Hyundai and Kia have entered into consent orders with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) related to recalls for vehicles equipped with Theta II engines. The combined penalties amount to $210 million.

NHTSA determined metal debris may have been generated from factory machining operations as part of the manufacturing of the engine crankshaft which may not have been completely removed from the crankshaft’s oil passages during the cleaning process. In addition, the machining processes of the crankpins caused an uneven surface roughness. As a result, the metal debris and uneven surface roughness can restrict oil flow to the bearings, increasing bearing temperatures causing premature bearing wear.

Also, Hyundai issued an engine recall for used Hyundai Santa Fe SUVs, Velosters and Sonata Hybrids. While not huge in number, it is a major recall for owners.

Check for Recalls
The first thing to do with any used vehicle you are considering is checking the NHTSA website for recall notices. You can do a general search for the make and model you are considering buying.

Once you decide on a particular used Hyundai, enter the vehicle identification number. The seller should be able to provide the number. If not (and it’s odd if a seller can’t), the easiest place to find the VIN is the lower right side of the windshield as you look at the car. It’s in front of where the driver sits.

Used 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe recallNot All Recalls Are Equal
Some recalls are more significant than others. For example, some 2015 Hyundai Sonatas have recalls for possible loss of power assist. Sure, it’s a potential safety issue but only about 2,100 models were affected. It’s not a major issue if that recall pops up during your search. Just make sure the work is done.

However, there’s currently a recall on for 2015 Sonatas where the front passenger seatbelt may not latch. That affects over 160,000 models and is a huge safety issue for obvious reasons (i.e. not wanting to send your passengers through the front windshield in a crash) as well as not delivering the best safety for air bag deployment.

If a Used Hyundai Has a Recall
Is it the end of the deal if a used Hyundai has a recall notice? Not at all. Ask the seller if the recall work has been done. Make the seller prove it with paperwork from the dealership. Only a Hyundai dealer does recall repairs.

You can still buy a used Hyundai if the work hasn’t been done. Just make sure you’re properly compensated. The buyer has to drop the price on the car because it cannot be considered in good mechanical condition if it has a major recall on it (like potential engine failures).

Make the seller get the work done before completing the purchase or get some cash off the price if you’re forced to get the work done. Leaving a car at a dealership for repair work is never an easy task. Get paid for your frustration one way or another.

2015 Hyundai Veloster recallIf a Used Hyundai Has No Recall
The absence of recalls does not mean a car is mechanically sound. NHTSA recalls address safety issues and not all mechanical problems.

Regardless of what used Hyundai you are buying, invest in a good independent inspection regardless of recalls. It’s worth dropping a couple hundred bucks on a $10,000 purchase to spot problems before they happen.

Keith Griffin covers Hyundai and Kia at Torque News. He has been writing continuously about cars since 2002. Keith used to be a researcher/writer for US News & World Report, as well as numerous car sites, including Carfax and Car Gurus, and a contributor to The Boston Globe. Most recently, Keith was the managing editor for American Business Media. Follow Keith at @indepthauto on Twitter, on @LinkedIn and on his Indepth Auto Facebook page.