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Latest Threat to Carbuyer Safety: The Evil of 'Curbstoning'

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Used car salesman

Used car salesman

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Have you heard of "curbstoning"? We hadn't, and we like to think we're up on new automotive trends.

But if the National Automobile Dealers Association has its way, you will. Curbstoning, you see, is a dangerous threat to used-car buyers, who put themselves and their families in dire peril by buying from anyone other than a used-car dealer.

You know, that friendly guy in the checked sports coat who has your best interests at heart.

Curbstoning, says NADA, is the "fraudulent and potentially dangerous practice" of "repeated buying and selling of vehicles for profit by a person posing as a private seller who does not have a dealer license."

Used car and truck ads on Craigslist New York

Used car and truck ads on Craigslist New York

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Empty Auto Dealership

Empty Auto Dealership

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Empty dealership interior

Empty dealership interior

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1929 Used Car Promo

1929 Used Car Promo

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1936 Used Car Lot Quincy MA

1936 Used Car Lot Quincy MA

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Internet feeding ground

The press release includes into a familiar trope: The Internet provides a "lucrative feeding ground" for the evil curbstoners. And these days, for the Internet, read "Craigslist".

But what exactly is this threat? Curbstoners "often" sell cars that have "severe damage or defects hidden beneath a freshly polished exterior."

"Hidden damage could be structural, mechanical or even electronic, which is often harder to detect,” says David Hyatt, NADA vice president of public affairs.

“Nowadays, it’s not just a bent frame used car shoppers have to watch out for," he goes on. "It could be a flood-damaged vehicle, a faulty computer connection and sensor or an empty airbag module that pose safety hazards.”

The implication: Vehicles from legit used-car dealers have none of these problems, but those offered by so-called curbstoners do.

Used cars: Dealer profit center

Here, it's worth pointing out that if you have a used car to sell, you will almost always make more money by selling it yourself to a private party than by selling it or trading it in to a dealer.

Car dealers these days make very little money selling new cars. Their two profit centers are repairs and used cars. In other words, they make margins on used cars they can only dream of making on the new cars that bring in their service customers.

Three to five a year is OK

NADA notes that some states limit private sellers to three to five vehicles a year before they must register as used-car dealers. Ah, but evil curbstoners evade that limit by not taking title to the cars they sell, posing "as relatives or friends of the owner."

To avoid thoroughly pissing off consumers who sell their own cars, Chuck Redden--president of AutoTec, which works with states and municipalities to track car dealer licenses--rather grudgingly clarifies the definition of a curbstoner.

“It’s not the guy putting a ‘for sale’ sign on his own car," Redden says. "It’s the guy with different cars on Craigslist every week." In that case, "you don’t find out there’s a problem until it’s too late. Your money is gone and you have no recourse.”

"Concerned" parties to the rescue

Again, unlike your friendly neighborhood used-car dealer, who will of course gladly refund your money even in the absence of consumer protection laws to curb the well-documented abuses of (a small number of) car dealers.

But fear not. "Concerned corporations and organizations within the automotive industry," including NADA, are rushing to the rescue, with a nationwide "Stop Curbstoning" campaign to "take action against this growing problem."


 
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Comments (3)
  1. A good amount of these people are also "jumping title" meaning that that since they don't have a dealers license they should be paying sales tax, but they are not.
     
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  2. I don't see a problem with a lot of casual curbstoners. They pick up a repo car on http://repofinder.com and sell it on http://craigslist.com two days later. What's the big deal?
     
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  3. This practice has been around for as long as there has been used cars. In Ontario(Canada) this is known as "curbsiding" I believe because the people operate the business at the side of the road, the showroom is often a curbside in your neighbourhood. Anyhow it has been illigal for many years and if convicted large fines and even jail-time is handed out to those charged. The very method of marketing these cars is often thier down fall as they usually have more than 2-3 cars listed on-line with the same phone number. Government agents scan the sites looking for these multiple listing.
     
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