Are Used Car Dealers Selling Recalled Cars?

There's no law requiring used car dealers to tell customers about open safety recalls.
3:00 | 04/04/14

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Transcript for Are Used Car Dealers Selling Recalled Cars?
With all the talk of she havery recalls of late, we wondered what would happen if we went on an undercover mission and tried to buy one. Would the sales people let us know about the recall, just in case we weren't up on it. And what about other cars with problems? Here's the results. Reporter: The make, the model, the color. There are so many questions when you're buying a car. But there's another question -- a potentially life-saving one you might never think to ask. Is it safe? What about safety? You are watching undercover video of a recent car dealership in New York. What you're about to hear and see might shock you. Listen, it's a small car. For being what it is, it's safe. . Stop. Three lies. That's a 2006 cobalt. The very same gm vehicle at the center of a major national recall. But will this dealer tell us? It's a nice car. It is a nice car. These vehicles have a faulty ignition switch, the consequences of which can be deadly. These dramatic photos capture the horrific accident that killed a nurse on her 29th birthday. In fact, it was this tragedy, in addition to at least a dozen other deaths that helped launch the gm auto recall, one of the biggest in history. Lawyers say the young woman's cobalt had an ignition switch problem and she lost control. Just a few months after gm settled case, a recall fiasco ignited across the country. But what if you're buying one of the 3.5 million cars with open recalls. Can you count on the salesman to fully inform you? We hit the road to find out, to see how up front or knowledgeable car dealerships would be be about cars for sale that might be you should open recall. Our producer jerry went under cover in five New York area car lots, asking about cars we knew had open recalls. You think it's going to do 200,000 miles? The cobalt? No doubt. We looked at this cobalt, this salesman gave a full disclosure. Cobalt has a recall on it right now about the ignition switch. Gm will cover it. It's completely covered by gm. But look what happened at this next lot. Can you pop the hood for me? This salesman showed us a 2002 jeep grand cherokee which also has an open recall, this one for air bag questions. Let me ask you a question. I have a couple of kids. 7 and 11 and I want to make sure the car is safe. Is it safe? No problem here. No problem. This is what we're here for. He says they'll take it to a mechanic for an inspection before the final sale, but no mention at all of that important recall. As long as the cars are safe. Nothing I need to know. We called back to follow up on the incident and the office manager said we didn't know it had a recall. That's not all we found. Watch what happens at another dealership in New York. A 2006 cobalt with the ignition switch recall, a known hazard that has taken at least a dozen lives. Is it safe? I mean, what about safety? Listen, it's a small car. For being what it is, it's safe temperature. There's nothing I need to know about that car. Nothing. You saw my write up, right? Yeah, yeah. Nothing we need to know at all, huh? Do you know whether that car you're looking at, which looks like a real cream puff has that two or three outstanding recalls on it. You could dwroo you could drive out of the lot and have a breakdown or a crash just a couple of miles down the road. There's no federal or state law that requires dealers to tell customers about open recalls. People are driving with hazards that have gotten rawed that they're not fixed. It's quite easy to find out about recalls. Take that cobalt, for example. We're on We plugged in the vin, the car's id number and within seconds, with see it has a recall. Car also has a tool on their website that does recall checks for a number of auto manufacturers. Three Daytons later we went back. Hi, how are you? To ask why he never mentioned the recall on the cobalt. You said this car is safe but it actually has a recall. Well, recalls get recorded once you register the car. We don't know if there's a recall or not. We pulled it up here on, there's the recall. Ignition switch replacement. We don't get these. What are you going to do moving forward sfwh. After we left, he said he was taking the cobalt off the lot until it was fixed. The manufacturers website has online tools. The resounding lesson we learned -- be a savvy consumer. When it comes to buying a car, it could save your life. Coming up, what ask really in your makeup?

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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