Have you ever wondered how long it takes to buy a car? Recent statistics suggest that you’ll spend about three and a half hours at the car dealership buying a new car. The process may include looking at the vehicle you’re interested in, performing a test drive, haggling over the price and filling out a significant amount of paperwork before you finally drive it off of the lot. Yet, this time estimate doesn’t include the weeks or even months you might spend searching makes and models and narrowing down the options before you start your test drives.

Buying a car takes a lot of time and effort. So, what happens after the purchase? It’s easy to assume that your new vehicle will be functional and safe, but the probability that you may own a vehicle with a recall is higher than you might expect. In 2020 alone, automotive manufacturers issued 886 recalls, which affected more than 54,000,000 car owners. Here’s a closer look at how to determine whether your vehicle is the subject of a recall, and what you should do thereafter.

It’s important to note that while major safety-related recalls may get press attention, there are many other recalls that you may not be aware of — even if you are the owner of a vehicle subject to one. You might receive a notice through the mail or via telephone, but it can be easy to miss a significant recall that could impair your vehicle’s performance or even make it dangerous to drive.

To determine whether your vehicle is the subject of a recall, you’ll first need to know your car’s vehicle identification number, or VIN. The VIN is typically found below the corner windshield of the driver’s side; it should also appear on your vehicle’s registration. When you know your VIN, visit the website of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and locate the recall page. Conduct a search using your VIN; if nothing appears, then you can rest easy knowing that your vehicle isn’t subject to a recall. Then, you can sign up for email notifications in case a recall occurs.

If you find that your vehicle does have a recall on it, contact your car dealership or the manufacturer to arrange a repair. Don’t put it off — you’ll likely want to get your vehicle fixed right away. You may also want to contact a lemon law attorney to help determine your rights under the law.

For more information, check out the accompanying resource.