Dear Car Talk:
Recently, my husband bought a new Toyota Corolla and gave his old Corolla to our daughter. Problem: Our daughter now has to sell her 2002 Corolla. Why is that a problem? Because there's a recall on the 2002 Corolla, since the Takata air bag on the passenger side could rupture, firing shrapnel into the car and causing serious injury. This is not a problem only for the Corolla; this air-bag recall is the largest in history, and has affected lots of cars. And because of that, replacement air bags are not going to be available for months or maybe even years.
Can we sell a car with an open recall, telling the potential buyer that the car may be unsafe? Or should we keep the car and not let anyone sit in the front passenger seat? -- Sue
There are some restrictions in some states that may prevent licensed car dealers from selling a car with a serious open safety recall, but I'm not aware of any legal restrictions on individual sellers. It's too bad for buyers, but that's the state of consumer protection at the moment.
But legal issues aside, when it comes to selling anything, disclosure always is the best policy, Sue. And since the arrival date of your replacement air bag is beyond your control, I think you can sell the car, as long as you explain that to any potential buyer.
So place the ad, and when someone responds, tell him or her all about the car, including the air-bag information. The result is that your disclosure will be factored into the price of the car.
Here's another example. Let's say you go to look at an apartment that rents for $800 a month. When you find out that the guy upstairs has an extensive jackhammer collection that he likes to play with, you may decide to walk away. Or you may negotiate the price down to $500 a month and decide to buy earplugs. What you do with the information is up to you. But all's fair if you are given full disclosure.
In your case, you may find buyers for whom the air-bag issue makes the car a non-starter. My brother bought a lot of cars that were non-starters over the years.
On the other hand, you may find a buyer who always drives alone, and is willing to wait for the replacement air bag in exchange for a couple of hundred dollars off the price of the car.
Either way, the buyer will not be deceived, and your conscience will be clear. Especially if you leave a spare football helmet on the front seat. Good luck, Sue.