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It's likely you've been in an Uber or Lyft that's been recalled

Jeanie Ahn
Senior Producer/Reporter

There were 57 million vehicles with open safety recalls on the road in the U.S. last year — that’s more than 1 out of 5 cars. And those numbers are only increasing. It’s a trend that has a lot of people worried — and not just car owners.

If you’re a regular user of ride-share apps like Uber and Lyft, you might not realize that active recalls could affect you as well. Just because a driver’s car has been cleared for operation as a ride-share, that doesn’t mean all outstanding issues have been addressed. It’s especially tricky since new recalls are announced regularly.

Keeping up with recalls

Unfortunately, there isn’t currently a feature on the Uber or Lyft apps that can alert passengers if the vehicle picking them up has an open recall. And it’s unclear exactly how much responsibility the companies bear for the recall statuses of their drivers’ vehicles.

“It boils down to how do you think of Uber and Lyft?” Consumer Reports lead automotive investigative reporter Jeff Plungis says. “Is this a professional service? Or is this a friend or neighbor picking you up?”

We reached out to Uber to ask if they have any plans to address the issue. An Uber spokesperson said, “We provide resources to driver-partners and encourage them to check for recalls and to perform routine maintenance. We’re proactively waitlisting vehicles with open recalls that include a ‘Do Not Drive’ language from the manufacturer or National Highway Traffic Safety Authority (NHTSA) from the app until they have taken action on their vehicle.”

A spokesperson for Lyft had this to say: “Lyft drivers use their personal vehicles to drive on the platform, the same car they use in their daily lives, driving their kids to school or friends around town. Drivers have a strong personal incentive to make sure their car is in a safe operating condition. Drivers make a continuous representation that that their vehicle meets the industry safety standards and all applicable state department of motor vehicle requirements for a vehicle of its kind.”

Or course, for millions of affected cars, the recalls don’t necessarily have “do not drive” language attached. And even if both Uber and Lyft require safety inspections of all drivers’ vehicles before they’re allowed to operate, many drivers fail to maintain or keep up with the growing number of recalls.

Being a proactive rider

If you’re concerned about using ride-share vehicles that could be under an active recall, there are some strategies to consider.

To check recall information with the NHTSA, you need the car’s vehicle identification number, or VIN, which you’re not likely to have for a ride with Uber or Lyft. You will get the car’s license plate number, though, which can come in handy.

One site, AirbagRecalls.com, monitors recalls related to the ongoing Takata airbag recall. That site lets you look vehicles up by either VIN or license plate number.

If you’re looking for a wider range of recall information, Carfax offers a free app, MyCarFax, that lets you input the license plate number and see how it ranks with recalls. I checked the plates of all the recent Ubers I’ve taken and found out that one had two outstanding recalls. Had I known before the ride, I wouldn’t have gotten in the car.

“You would have a very determined consumer to figure this out and to do something about it,” Plungis says. “It doesn’t seem like a realistic option.”

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