Buyer beware: Recalled cars with potentially dangerous engine defect being sold at Central Florida lots

It’s not illegal, CarFax says

Used car buyers, beware.

A News 6 investigation has revealed dozens of Hyundai and Kia cars and sports utility vehicles -- that are under an active safety recall -- are now listed for sale at used car lots across Central Florida.

And according to CarFax, it’s perfectly legal.

Also during the investigation, News 6 discovered that many of the recalled cars are ending up back on the lot without getting inspected or fixed and are being purchased by unsuspecting buyers.

Elizabeth Matos, of Orlando, says she was one of them.

Matos says she bought her 2012 Kia Soul at a local used car lot three months ago.

“I mean, it was reasonable in price,” Matos said. “I just thought it would be reliable transportation to get me and my daughter from the places that we have to go."

Matos said she thought the car was safe, and that the workers at the used car lot never told her the 2012 Kia Soul she picked was under an active recall -- with an engine at risk of catching fire.

She says she had no idea there was an open recall on her vehicle and that she would not have purchased it had she known.

“No, because I have a daughter,” Matos said. “You know, my car, if something happens, it is putting me and her life in danger.”

News 6 showed her the safety risks listed online involving her Kia Soul’s recall, which included the potential for her car to stall, crash or even catch fire.

“That’s crazy,” Matos said. “A fire? It could blow up!”

It turns out the car lot did nothing illegal by selling her a used car under recall -- even a recall as serious as this.

That came as a surprise to other car owners.

“I think from an ethical standpoint, they ought to,” said Orlando resident Jack Gibson, who says he was surprised to learn that legally, a seller doesn’t have to tell you about the recall risk or fix the problem. “It seems crazy to me that that should be allowed.”

Emilie Voss, a spokesperson with CarFax, which provides free car history data to consumers, says buyers need to be their own advocate.

“There is a federal law that prevents dealers from selling a new car with an open recall, but that does not apply to used cars,” Voss said.

CarFax is a private company that offers several free products and services for car owners and buyers to check their car’s history, but does charge a fee for more comprehensive reports.

Jason Levine, the Executive Director for the Center for Auto Safety, an independent non-profit organization advocating for auto safety and quality, confirms there is no federal prohibition on the sale of a used car that is under an open safety recall.

“There is simply no moral justification for the sale of any car that is subject to a recall, particularly one that is prone to catching on fire like the 2012-2016 Kia Souls," Levine said. "Kia and Hyundai, and all manufacturers, must make better efforts to find these defective vehicles and get them fixed. Used car dealers have the rights of any car owners to take these vehicles to authorized dealerships and have them repaired for free and they should be doing just that. Finally, it’s time for federal law to catch up to an easy to understand idea: no one should be allowed to knowingly sell unsafe recalled cars.”

Levine says in some states there are applicable consumer protection laws that rely on the representations made about the vehicle at the point of sale. Levine says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires manufacturers to notify owners within a ‘reasonable’ period of time regarding the recall, adding it is expected that such notification will be made within 60 days of the decision to recall. Levine says if the original owner, (or the dealer) did receive the recall notice, there’s no guarantee an updated notice would have been received by the latest person buying the vehicle.

News 6 requested data from CarFax listing all of the Kia and Hyundai cars with the open safety recall involving the potentially dangerous engine defect. The company’s list revealed more than 100 cars for sale at car lots from Ocala to Orlando to Melbourne and beyond.

News 6 even visited some local car lots to see if the cars listed were on display for customers to buy and found a 2014 Hyundai Sonata that was on the list. That vehicle was placed right out front at a North Orlando car lot. A 2014 Black Kia Soul was prominently displayed by the street at a car lot in Longwood. One salesman in Orlando took News 6 right up to a 2014 Kia Soul listed for sale on the lot’s website -- even after being shown it was flagged as having an open safety recall for the engine defect.

News 6 is choosing not to name the used car dealers who are selling the recalled Kias and Hyundais since they are not breaking any laws by doing so.

Last year, News 6 reported about the massive safety recall involving certain Hyundai and Kia models that have a major engine defect -- a defect that could cause the car to stall or even catch fire. The companies have recalled nearly 2.4 million vehicles for fire and engine failure problems since September of 2015, and they are under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for potentially being slow to fix faulty vehicles.

Late last year, the Korean automaker reached a major settlement in a class-action lawsuit over reported vehicle defects and engine fires. The more than 2.3 million Hyundai vehicles covered under the settlement include the 2019 Santa Fe SUV, the 2013-2018 Santa Fe Sport SUVs, the 2011-2019 Sonata models and the 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2019 Tucson SUVs.

For Kia, 1.8 million vehicles covered under the settlement include all 2011-2019 Optimas, Sorento SUVs and Sportage SUVs equipped with the 2.0-liter and 2.4-liter GDI engines.

Voss says there is a quick and easy way you can check to see if the car you want has an open recall.

Besides entering a car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) into the National Highway Traffic Safety administration website, you can also download the CarFax Car Care app on your phone.

The app allows you to enter a car’s license plate, or scan the VIN, to see if your car has any open recalls or maintenance issues that need to be addressed.

Voss says the CarFax Car Care app is an easy tool that can help you keep track of all your family’s cars and SUVs and alert you to any recalls if and when they’re issued.

Matos said she not only plans to download the app, she also got her car fixed within 24 hours of News 6 bringing the recall to her attention.

Voss said if the car you want is under that recall, all you have to do is take it to a Kia or Hyundai dealer and they will inspect and fix your vehicle for free. Voss said you can also ask the car lot selling the vehicle to do that before you buy it -- but legally they don’t have to.

A worker at one of the lots News 6 visited said they do provide a CarFax report to all the cars they sell that would show any active recalls listed upfront. Make sure you always ask for that before you buy, or just download the app and check it for yourself.

News 6 did reach out to both Kia and Hyundai Motor Group to find out how and when they notify used vehicle buyers who purchased cars under an open safety recall.

A spokesperson with Kia Motors America tells News 6 that KMA does not yet show Matos as the vehicle owner of the 2012 Kia Soul she purchased at a used car lot in their database, but confirm the last recall notice was mailed in April 2019.

A spokesperson for Hyundai told News 6 recall notification is more challenging when a vehicle has changed ownership numerous times but says the company does everything possible to reach all impacted owners of Hyundai recalls - and also encourages those purchasing a used vehicle of any make or model to check NHTSA’s website for open recalls.

How Hyundai contacts customers about open recalls:

  • Hyundai officially notifies customers of the recall by sending all registered owners a letter. The company utilizes its own data as well as data provided by third parties to give it the most accurate information possible. This is done multiple times to ensure the company is doing everything possible to connect with customers who have a recall.
  • Any customer with an active Hyundai Blue Link (our telematics system) subscription will receive an alert when a recall is posted for their vehicle.
  • On, there is a VIN lookup tool that will indicate any open recalls.
  • The vehicle’s VIN can also be inputted at and its database will show any open recalls.
  • Anytime a customer visits a Hyundai dealer for service, they will notify the customer of any open recalls.
  • Hyundai also works with auction houses (Cox Automotive – Manheim) to have recalls completed prior to the auction.
  • Hyundai also notifies customers through targeted digital and social media advertising to reach impacted customers. The microsite for the engine recalls:

How Kia contacts customers about open recalls:

Kia Motors America (KMA) recommends customers who purchase a previously owned Kia vehicle check for open recalls by either checking on Kia’s website, or checking on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website, Additionally, safety recalls are included in used vehicle CarFax reports for consumers to review when shopping for a used car.

Kia customers with questions regarding their Kia vehicle and warranty coverage should contact their local Kia dealer for assistance or Kia’s Consumer Assistance Center directly at 1-800-333-4542 (4Kia).