Auto dealers are expected to sell cars that meet certain consumer protection criteria. This may include providing a warranty that will cover the buyer’s costs if a car turns out to be a lemon. Unfortunately, some unethical dealers may attempt to bypass these laws by curbstoning. Curbstoning is when a dealer poses as a private seller to sell a car. By curbstoning, an unethical dealer can avoid having to comply with the regulations that apply to dealers. To a buyer, this could mean buying a car that has a salvaged title (a car that’s been declared a total loss by an insurance company). It could also mean unknowingly buying a car that has been in a flood and suffered severe water damage.
The term curbstoning comes from the way these transactions typically occur. When a dealer is trying to pose as a private seller, they will often sell cars from the curb or a parking lot, just as an individual would. A curbstoner often gets away with scamming buyers because he or she sells the vehicle and then disappears. With no office or contact information, a buyer can end up with a lot of headaches to deal with.
Experts say up to 80% of used cars sold through online classified ads are orchestrated by curbstoners.