Selling car with nonfunctioning airbags - liability issues?

Good morning!

I’ve been driving a 2000 Honda Accord (>200K miles) in the state of Oregon and ready to get rid of it. It has a very low resale value so I’ll probably donate or junk it. However, the airbag (SRS) system failed years ago, and isn’t economically feasible to repair. The SRS light on the dashboard is always illuminated, indicating the system is inactive.

I’ve heard there are liability issues if a future owner is injured in an accident, even if the airbag issue is disclosed by me to the buyer. Is there a potential problem here, and how could I protect myself? (I’d be happy to just sell or give it to a junkyard, but it runs fine, and I assume the junker would sell it to a person who would drive it.)

Thank you for your nonbinding legal opinions.

Thisis what I googled. You can sell a car “as is”, and make sure that the buyer acknowledges the problem in writing. You will still be able to get more than the scrap metal/salvage value of the car if it’s a running vehicle, I think.

As a side note, how much crap does the SRS system actually use? Obviously there’s a module inside the steering wheel, a sensor somewhere, some wiring and a circuit board. Is it not feasible to just get the same parts from a junked vehicle and swap them?

I ran into this on our Miata. The 1996 cars have a problem with the airbag control module going bad, which lights up the AIRBAG light on the dash. You can’t get new parts; they were all used up several years ago. And I tried two different junkyard modules, tearing the entire dashboard apart each time, with no luck.

I thought about selling it, but 1. I didn’t want any possible liability, and 2. I couldn’t imagine anyone advising their daughter to buy it. So we donated it to a charity, and a man with a flatbed truck came and hauled it away. Basically the AIRBAG light dynamited the value of the car.

In the written bill of sale, I would include language like “The buyer agrees to carry out any necessary repairs to the vehicle to make it safety-compliant, about which he has been informed, before driving.”

Then the buyer could later claim the warning light was disconnected and he wasn’t told.
List every safety related defect on the BoS.

That’s what I’m likely to do, but I didn’t think that solved the liability problem by itself (the charity will sell it, then someone’s daughter will be driving it.)

But as has been helpfully suggested here, I can make out a statement disclosing the problem very specifically – it’s not a secret, and the SRS light is lit – and see if I can get a person in authority at the charity to sign it. If they refuse, there are other charities.

Or maybe I can sell it to a junkyard on written condition that it be scrapped on-site, not re-sold, with the same specific disclosure of the problem. The one thing that doesn’t concern me at all is getting full value for the car – even without the SRS problem, Bluebook trade-in value is only a couple hundred, and I’m not interested in marketing to a private buyer.

which makes it their problem, not yours.

notwithstanding that the only thing they’re likely to do with such a car is part it out, you really have no way to enforce that.

“Of which he has been informed”, of course, is covered by the expedient of listing every defect in the bill of sale, the whole purpose of the exercise. Why would you bother to make a written agreement, agreeing to unspecified verbal representations? Like a written contract specifying payment of “the amount we talked about”.

From the Car Talksite:

The article does advise the the seller disclose the issue.

My opinion is mostly useless since I’m in a different country, but in Alberta the provincial government recommends (in additional to a few types of police/damage/financial lien reports) the buyer get a safety inspection on any used car they will buy. To me this is a better way to find out safety issues on a vehicle rather than relying on the owner’s knowledge of the vehicle which 99% of the time will be non-expert and non-comprehensive.

Even a licensed inspector won’t guarantee every system & part to be good or bad. I’m not sure how a seller would be expected to know the condition of the interior tire lining, or why the dash light for a given item is on, or the status of a hundred other possible safety issues. For example on my minivan the parking brake light is perpetually on; I know that the cables simply don’t fully retract to the “off position” due to a bit of rust or something else holding the cable the last 1%… but the brake is completely unengaged and works fine when you do engage it. I wouldn’t expect a buyer to take my word for it though. I’d think anyone concerned with a safety feature or features has the onus of finding out for themselves how functional they are and how serious any issues are before buying.

It seems unlikely to me that someone paying $1000 for a used car will have the funds to sue the previous owner or really have grounds to collect damages if they get hurt in a collision. A lot of used car buyers actually like cheaper prices associated with certain features they don’t care about not being functional.

The lawyer takes the case(if s/he takes it) for a contingency fee. You agree to pay a certain percentage of the award as the lawyer’s fee.