One car buyer’s cautionary tale
“I saw a 2003 Chevrolet advertised on Kijiji for $1,500 ‘as is’ or $1,800 certified, so I arranged to meet the seller. The car looked good. It was comfortable – leather seats and power everything, including a sunroof.” – Anonymous Toronto car buyer
At first glance this car buyer, let’s call her Amanda, found what appeared to be a pretty good deal – at least for an older, used vehicle. However, that ‘pretty good deal’ was in fact ‘too good to be true’. The private seller was actually a ‘curbsider’, an illegal, unlicensed dealer. And the car? Well, it had major mechanical problems.
“The day after I bought it the check engine light came on; then it refused to start. I took it to my mechanic; he told me it would cost thousands of dollars to fix.”
OMVIC, Ontario’s vehicle sales regulator, regularly receives calls from consumers with similar stories. Victimized by curbsiders who posed as private citizens selling their personal vehicles, the consumers quickly discovered the vehicles they purchased had undisclosed mechanical issues, had been in accidents or had rolled-back odometers.
“Because curbsiders are not licensed by OMVIC, consumers who buy from them have little protection,” explains OMVIC’s CEO, John Carmichael. “So when a deal sounds ‘too good to be true’; the vehicle isn’t registered in the seller’s name, or has only been registered in his or her name for a short period; or the seller has no maintenance records – consumers should recognize they’re probably dealing with a curbsider and walk away.” Unfortunately, Amanda was unaware and trusted the seller.
“When I first went to see it, I did not ask to see the ownership or the seller’s ID. I did ask to take the vehicle to a mechanic and he agreed…and my mechanic told me it needed repairs to pass safety. But when I brought this up to the seller, he said he could get me some tires, that nothing else was wrong with the car and that the mechanic just wanted to make money. So I believed him. I know now I made a few critical mistakes and regret not listening to my instincts.”
When Amanda ultimately contacted OMVIC she learned that 25 per cent of online “for sale by owner” ads are actually for vehicles being sold by curbsiders. And while she was ineligible to file a claim with OMVIC’s compensation fund (only consumers who buy from a registered dealer can access the fund), OMVIC did get involved. “Within two days I was contacted by an OMVIC Investigator. He reassured me I would remain anonymous, and let me know that the curbsider could be prosecuted.” Following the investigation, the alleged curbsider was charged by OMVIC and the matter is now before the courts.
As for Amanda, the car she bought from the curbsider was undriveable, so she sold it to an auto recycler for $200. But she did catch a break — her son’s roommate helped get her back on the road, selling her a well-maintained 2009 Toyota for $4,000.
To learn more about how to spot a curbsider or to review a list of curbsider convictions, visit OMVIC.ca.
To report a curbsider, call 1-888-NO-CURBS (662-8727).