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Car Recalls

How do vehicles rank for recall issues? To what extent has a given model been recalled or has issues that may lead to recalls? We analyzed over 4 million records from NHTSA to calculate a Recall Rating for each model.

Recall information is a critical component of car shopping and car ownership. The nature of a vehicle recall can range from minor, non-safety-related inconveniences to major safety defects impacting critical motor vehicle equipment. Identifying and understanding open recalls on a car, truck or SUV should be a high priority, whether shopping for a new car, researching a used car, or driving a vehicle you’ve owned for years.

The iSeeCars.com Recall Rating can help shoppers identify vehicles with high, or low, recall activity during their research process. By analyzing over 4 million NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) recall records, iSeeCars identified and ranked models sold by each automaker. These include NHTSA defect investigations, Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs), and full recalls, which can range from safety-related defects to minor vehicle equipment failures.

While the Recall Rating shows an aggregate score for each vehicle, and its rank within an automaker’s model line, shoppers and owners should use a car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) to confirm specific vehicle recalls and potential safety issues for that model. Vehicle owners will often receive a recall letter informing them of a safety risk, as well as instructions on how to have recall repairs addressed at an authorized dealer, at no cost to the owner.

But relying on a recall notification is risky and could compromise vehicle safety standards, especially for older used cars that have passed through multiple owners. While any given state’s Department of Motor Vehicles should be able to track a car’s path of ownership, the system is not perfect. This issue was highlighted during the massive Takata airbag safety recall campaign that began in 2013, when automakers realized how difficult it was to track down owners of older cars and get them to a dealership for airbag replacement.

So while the iSeeCars.com Recall Rating offers an effective high-level look at which cars have the lowest and highest recall activity within each vehicle manufacturer, this site also has a free VIN decoder to help shoppers identify open recalls on a specific vehicle.

Consumers seeking additional recall information can use the iSeeCars Free VIN Check report to see all recalls for a specific model. Consumers can also visit NHTSA.gov to find the latest open recall information for vehicles as well as child car seats, tires and related equipment, FAQs, and a tool to report safety problems. This site also explains the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and the procedures used to ensure minimum safety standards for all new cars are met.

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How We Rank These Cars

The Recall Rating is a proprietary iSeeCars calculation that indicates the extent to which a given model has been recalled, or has technical service bulletins (TSBs are communications auto manufacturers issue to dealers regarding an issue), which are like recalls but less serious, or has open investigations that may lead to recalls or TSBs. A model is given a Recall Rating of “10” if it has no recalls, TSBs, or any investigations that may lead to a recall or TSB. In cases where the vehicle is newer and has had less opportunity for any of these events to happen, we adjust the score according to the vehicle’s age and overall brand performance. This ensures that new vehicles are not given any unfair advantage.

More specifically, iSeeCars analyzes the entire history of recalls, investigations, technical service bulletins (TSB) from NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), currently consisting of over 4.2 million records to calculate a Recall Rating for each vehicle. After adjusting for the age of the vehicle, we combine data on recalls, TSBs, and investigations into one number that reflects how the vehicle performs regarding recalls. In our score, we give the most weight to recalls which are the most serious. TSBs get slightly less weight due to their less serious nature, and investigations even less—since many investigations are closed without further action. The list of models for a given brand is ranked showing the models with the best Recall Ratings first. In the event of two or more vehicles with the same Recall Rating, we use iSeeCars proprietary rating of the overall quality of the car (iSeeCars Score) to break the tie.

The overall iSeeCars Score is an analysis of three factors: reliability, resale value and safety. It is calculated based on the latest research and analysis by our data science team. The data analysis comes from over 12 million new and used vehicles in our Longest-Lasting Cars and 5-Year Depreciation Studies, combined with NHTSA and IIHS Safety Ratings.

Vehicles are scored in three categories:

Reliability | 33.3%

The reliability score represents an analysis of iSeeCars' proprietary research on the longest-lasting vehicles.

Value Retention | 33.3%

The value retention score is based on our data science team's statistical analysis and prediction of 5-year depreciation from MSRP to determine which cars hold their value best, using US Bureau of Labor Statistics data to adjust for inflation.

Safety | 33.3%

The safety score is calculated based on the last five years of crash test ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and incorporates the latest Top Safety Pick information from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

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