ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Kraig Price thought he was buying his dream car, a Mercedes. Now, he fears driving it.

“Every time I make a payment, I think, ‘I’m paying for a deathtrap,'” Price said.

That’s because his car is among those with recalled airbags. The recall was issued after serious injuries and even deaths were reported. Price wasn’t warned before he drove off the used car lot.

Kraig bought his car at an out-of-state dealership and said the salesperson never mentioned the airbag issue. Now that he knows, he can’t get it fixed because the manufacturer doesn’t have enough parts.

“They say it will be Oct. 2020 before they’ll have the parts,” Price said. “I would have bought another car if I knew about this. I am not okay with this safety issue.

“The airbag is something you’re supposed to be able to rely on,” Price said. “To know that you can’t rely on the airbag is a problem for me.”

So, how do you know that used car you’re thinking about buying is safe?

Tens of thousands of used cars have unrepaired safety recalls, and many wind up on Tampa Bay area used car lots or sold in private deals.

You may be surprised to learn that there’s no federal or state law that requires dealers to repair safety recalls. In fact, they don’t even have to notify you.

Even more alarming: Dealers and consumer experts tell Better Call Behnken vehicles can’t always get fixed before the sale because manufacturers don’t supply the parts.

An estimated 70 million cars and trucks have safety recalls that were never fixed, said Jason Levine, of the National Center of Auto Safety.

The risk? Transmissions could catch on fire, wheels fall off, airbags may explode.

“These aren’t cosmetic issues,” Levine said. “These aren’t for rusting paint or where you don’t like the way the car looks. These are safety issues.”

There’s no law to prohibit the sale of vehicles with open recalls or require the defect be disclosed.

While many licensed dealers do the repairs, or at least warn you, others don’t. Some dealers say they fix cars and trucks before selling when they have the parts. Many agree to fix the vehicle when the part comes in.

Levine says the manufacturers need to step up.

“The manufacturers that make vehicles that require recalls, that have these defects or violate federal law, they’re on the hook,” Levine said. “They’re the ones who need to be getting those parts out to the licensed dealers. “

Don’t rely on someone else to tell you about recalls. Before you buy a used car, look up the VIN, vehicle identification number, the government’s website.

There you can find all recalls and repairs.

Also, consider having your own mechanic check out a used car before you purchase.

Meanwhile, if you receive a recall notice on a vehicle you already own, call your local dealer about repairs In most cases, the repair – if parts are available – can be done immediately, and for free.

If you have something you think needs to be investigated, contact Investigative Reporter Shannon Behnken at or 1-855-BEHNKEN.