The Internet has made used-car shopping more convenient for consumers, giving them a number of online outlets for locating a used vehicle. Unfortunately the fact that people with money frequent these sites can make you a target for crooks who want to take advantage of unsuspecting buyers.
Used-car scams can involve unlicensed independent dealers known as "curbstoners" and false online listings. We encountered both as part of our Debt-Free Car Project. We were drawn to their bait at first, but smelled something fishy and steered clear of the scams.
Meeting a Curbstoner
A curbstoner is a person who sells lots of cars on a regular basis, but has no designated place of business. He might not even have a dealer's license, which states typically require for people who have gone beyond selling their own car and have turned it into a business, however informal. Because a curbstoner has no license, he can operate under the radar and avoid any accountability for selling vehicles that are subpar, unsafe or have suspect titles. Some curbstoners have been known to roll back car odometers or pass off lemons as though they were in working order. While not all curbstoners are corrupt, it's best to steer clear of them just to be safe.
According to a case study released by stopcurbsstoning.com, most curbstoners prefer to concentrate on the low end of the used-car market, where resources are few and the buyer's willingness to turn to official channels for help is low. The study estimates that the average resale value of the vehicles sold by curbstoners was about $2,240.