Vehicle recalls: How to check if your car has been recalled

Last updated July 06, 2023

Each year, millions of vehicles are recalled due to a variety of issues – from minor concerns such as faulty windscreen wipers, through to more dangerous faults concerning the brakes, airbags, seatbelts, fuel tank – and even fire hazards.

In this guide, we will explain how to check whether your car model is subject to recall – and the appropriate action to take when this is the case.

We’ll also address some important car recall topics, including how a recall might affect a car’s value, whether you are entitled to a courtesy car whilst awaiting recall repairs – and which car brands have had the most and least recalls.

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What is a vehicle recall?

A vehicle recall occurs when either the car manufacturer or the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) raise a potential safety issue with a vehicle. Vehicle recalls frequently involve components such as the fuel tank, airbags, steering mechanism, seat belts, and brakes.

How to check if a car has been recalled

Manufacturers will sometimes send out technical service bulletins which will allow dealers to carry out remedial work. However, if the problem is safety-related, a full recall is the only way to ensure all owners are contacted.

The manufacturer will get in touch with the owners of any affected vehicles, using details from the DVLA. If your car needs to be recalled, you should be contacted by letter, email or phone call. This correspondence will explain what the issue is, how the manufacturer plans to fix it - and who to contact to arrange for any checks to be carried out.

However, if you’ve purchased your vehicle second-hand (or your contact details aren’t up to date), the manufacturer might not be able to reach you. Therefore, if you are concerned that your car might be subject to recall, you should check the recall search page for your peace of mind.

What should I do if my vehicle has been recalled?

You should arrange for your car to be repaired (or replaced) by the manufacturer, but you will not usually have to pay for any repairs or parts.

How come I wasn’t contacted by the manufacturer?

If your car has been recalled and the manufacturer has not contacted you, this is likely because they do not have your contact details.

You can check whether your car has been recalled on the recall search page. Alternatively, you can contact your dealership to check whether there is anything outstanding for your vehicle. You’ll need to provide your registration details and potentially, the vehicle identification number (VIN).

Does a vehicle recall affect the value of a car?

If you want to sell your car but are worried about how a recall might affect its value, then don’t be. The only way a vehicle recall could affect the value of a car is if it has an outstanding recall that hasn’t been addressed.

To find out how much your car might be worth, enter its registration number into our free car valuation tool now.

Do you get a courtesy car during the recall work?

This will depend on the length of time needed for the recall work to be carried out. If the work is expected to take a long time (or if there is a delay in obtaining the parts needed), you should be entitled to a courtesy car.

However, in some circumstances, the dealer might not offer you a courtesy car. If this is the case, you should be forthright and request one (and make sure that the vehicle offered suits your requirements).

Are there any specific time constraints for recall work?

There are no time limitations for recall work. If you purchase a used car that has been recalled, the manufacturer is still obligated to fix the issue free of charge, regardless of how old the vehicle is – or when the recall was issued.

Therefore, if you do discover that your car is subject to recall, you should arrange for the repairs to be carried out as soon as possible.

How long does recall repair work take?

This will depend on the issue that needs to be resolved. Smaller recall repairs may be completed in a matter of minutes. However, more extensive repairs may take days or even weeks.

Who carries out recall repair work?

Recall repairs can be carried out at any of the manufacturer’s franchised dealerships for free.

Which car brand has the most recalls?

Currently, Tesla is the most recalled car brand - and the Model 3, Model Y, Model S and Model X are their most recalled models.

Which car brand has least recalls?

Mercedes-Benz and Toyota have the least car recalls.