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How to Protect Yourself from Curbsiders

When it comes to buying a car, whether you purchase your vehicle from a dealership or a private seller, the vast majority of sellers are honest people who are looking to sell you a great car for a great price. The thing to keep in mind is that there are always a few bad apples in the bunch. In order to protect yourself from fraudulent sellers, you need to arm yourself with information.

A curbsider (also called a curber or a curbstoner) is an unlicensed individual, dealer or retailer who sells cars with the goal of making a profit off of vehicles they have generally owned for a very short time. In some cases, the curbsider may not even be the registered owner of the vehicle. Each province in Canada has a provincial governing body that issues dealer licenses, a requirement in order to legally sell vehicles in Canada.

How does a curbsider operate?

A curbsider will buy up vehicles and instead of registering them under their own name, they post the same vehicles for sale with a mark-up. The curbsider will pose as the previous owner or tell potential buyers that they’re selling the car for a family member or friend, often playing on a buyer’s emotions by telling them a sad story. They typically have several cars for sale at the same time and usually request that the potential buyer meet them in a public place to avoid revealing their own personal address and information.

Why should I avoid a curbsider?

A curbsider might misrepresent the real condition of the car, turn back the odometer or hide major issues and will typically convince the new buyer to pay with cash in order to avoid a paper trail. The curbsider ends up making a profit on the vehicle but avoids paying any taxes. If you purchase a vehicle from a curbsider (or any private seller for that matter), you also have no buyer’s protection if you encounter problems. In the case of a curbsider, it’s particularly difficult to follow up with them after the purchase (either for you or for law enforcement) because they’ve likely hid their real personal details and contact information during the fraudulent buying transaction.

How can I avoid a curbsider?

The following are tips that you can use when you’re looking for your next used vehicle to help ensure you are dealing with a legitimate seller:

  1. You should always question a deal that seems too good to be true.

  2. Be wary of dealing with a private seller who seems to have numerous cars listed at the same time.

  3. Don’t do business with a seller who won’t meet face-to-face. Be on your guard if they’ll only talk with you by phone or email.

  4. Get the CARFAX Canada report for relevant and important information about the history of the vehicle, including its registration details, registered lien information (depending on the type of CARFAX Canada report purchased) and U.S. history. The CARFAX Canada report will also contain branding details and tell you whether the vehicle is actively stolen.

  5. If you’re provided with a CARFAX Canada report, check the web link on the report, as well as the paper copy, to make sure the hardcopy the seller provided corresponds with the information on the online version. Make sure the web link for the CARFAX Canada begins with You’ll also want to examine the date that the report was run – you want to see a date that’s relatively current so you know that recent vehicle history is included on the report. These tactics will help ensure that neither the paper copy nor the online versions of the report have been falsified. If you have any concerns, never hesitate to call CARFAX Canada at 1.866.835.8612.

  6. Ask the seller for proof of identity and check that the seller’s name and address matches up with the information on the vehicle registration form (the actual form, not a photocopy).

  7. Verify the vehicle identification number (VIN), the car’s details and the colour of the car with the registration form, insurance slips and with the CARFAX Canada. Another way curbsiders commit fraud is by falsifying these details, and checking them with these tools will help you protect yourself.

  8. Don’t pay before you get the vehicle. If the seller demands cash only, be wary. If the seller requests a third-party escrow service, investigate the service to make sure it’s legitimate and secure, as many online escrow sites are fraudulent.

  9. Take the vehicle for a pre-purchase inspection to a place of your choosing. If the seller resists or insists on using one specific facility, this could be a red flag. Many curbsiders team up with someone who will look the other way when doing emission tests and safety inspections or they might misrepresent the vehicle’s actual condition.

  10. Don’t let yourself be rushed into a decision to buy the vehicle. If something about the situation seems off, trust your gut instinct.

Get the CARFAX Canada report for a comprehensive history of the vehicle, registration details, Canadian registered lien information and U.S. history information. The CARFAX Canada report will also contain branding details and tell you whether the vehicle is actively stolen.