Car Recall Check: How to Download, Use Free NHTSA SaferCar App That Alerts Drivers

From now on, Americans can find out whether their vehicle is safe by downloading a cellphone application.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched an app to help U.S. drivers know when vehicles and equipment have safety defects, monitoring recent recalls. SaferCar covers cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles and car seats. It aims to make roads safer—all it takes is a download on you're ready to go.

According to NHTSA, one in four vehicles on the road have an unrepaired recall, meaning that 25 percent of road travelers could be at risk. In 2019, 53 million vehicles, car seats, tires and equipment were recalled, according to the NHTSA website—nearly 20 million more than in 2018. This is why SaferCar has been launched—to keep consumers aware of the latest information about recalls and potentially save lives.

Once the app has been downloaded to your smartphone, drivers need to type in or scan their vehicle identification number (VIN). They can then receive recall push notifications on their mobile devices. Users can also add as many vehicles as they like to their virtual garage, as well as related equipment like tires, trailers and car seats.

To find your VIN, look on the lower left of the car's windshield for the 17-character number. It is also located on the car's registration card and it might be shown on your insurance card.

The VIN tool will show:

iStock Car Safety
Stock image: NHTSA launches new car safety app for recalls. iStock

What this VIN search tool will not show

  • A vehicle with a repaired safety recall. If your vehicle has no unrepaired recalls, you will see the message: "0 Unrepaired recalls associated with this VIN"
  • Manufacturer customer service or other non-safety recall campaigns
  • International vehicles
  • There may be a delay with very recently announced safety recalls for which not all VINs have been identified. VINs are added continuously so please check regularly.
  • Safety recalls that are more than 15 years old (except where a manufacturer offers more coverage)
  • Safety recalls conducted by small vehicle manufacturers, including some ultra-luxury brands and specialty applications

The app also points drivers to their local dealerships that handle vehicle repairs, so appointments can be made quickly and faults can be fixed for free. Other features in the app include the NHTSA's 5-Star safety ratings, car seat finder, car seat inspection and report a safety problem.

In terms of privacy, NHTSA says on its website that it is determined to protect personal data. "We're not trying to sell you anything and we're not selling your information to anyone either," the website says. Personal information will stay on the device and will not be stored by NHTSA.

You can download the NHTSA SaferCar app from the Google Play store. An iOS app is coming soon, according to the website.