Car Recalls: Should You Take Them Seriously?

Don’t ignore that recall letter. Following up on recalls means you’re less likely to make a defect-related insurance claim later on.

Car recalls are more common than you might think. Sometimes the recall has been all over the media (like GM’s current recall of 2.6 million vehicles), but usually the news comes in the form of a letter from the manufacturer.

Even though your car may seem fine, now you suddenly have to find the time to take it in. The repairs should be done free of charge, but it’s still a hassle. Should you bother?

Absolutely. While a recall letter doesn’t automatically mean you’re in danger, it’s not worth taking chances. And, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), recalls are effective at nipping potential problems in the bud.

Recalls reduce insurance claims

A recent HLDI study shows that recalls lower the chances of having to file an insurance claim for that defect later on.

The study looked at claims for vehicle fires that were not caused by crashes (a comparatively rare type of fire). In cases where the vehicle had a known fire-related defect that eventually resulted in a recall, the frequency of claims was 23 percent higher than for other vehicles.

After the recall, however, claims were only 12 percent higher for those vehicles, indicating that the recall reduced the number of claims. While those stats are still high compared to vehicles without the defect, HLDI speculated that many of the post-recall claims were made by owners who ignored the recall notice.

So, if your car has a suspected defect, will it develop a problem? Maybe not, but there’s a good chance it will. Take your car in — the sooner the better.

And even the hassle of taking your car into a repair shop may be decreasing. This past January, for example, Tesla was able to resolve an issue with its Model S through a remote, wireless software update. Afterward, Tesla followed up by mailing new adapters to car owners, eliminating the need to take their cars into the dealership. As cars become increasingly controlled by software, this type of repair may become more and more common.

Car recalls: Is your car on the list?

If you’re wondering if your car model is affected by a current recall, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration keeps an ongoing list. You can also sign up to receive email alerts for specific vehicle models as well as tires, child restraints, and motorcycles.

And to protect yourself against other hazards out there, make sure you’ve got the right car insurance coverage.

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