Trillium Automobile Dealers Association

Serving the interest of Ontario New Car
and Truck Dealerships for over 100 years

Buying a car privately? It’s buyer beware

Published on Friday, 30 March 2012

A recent Star article cited a study conducted by the Used Car Dealers Association of Ontario, which revealed that the illegal sale of vehicles in Ontario is on the rise, despite efforts by auto associations and governing bodies to crack down on this unlawful practice.

The prevailing wisdom has been that illegal car sales represented 25 per cent of all vehicles sold privately. The UCDA claims that the figure has jumped to 29 per cent, which is a disturbing trend for auto dealers and consumers.

Anyone who sells cars privately without the proper licensing and permits is known as a “curbsider.” These individuals prey on unsuspecting car buyers, often using false identification, false vehicle information and false circumstances throughout the sales process.

Curbsiders typically fall into two camps, both of which are subject to stiff fines and jail time, if convicted.

The first type willfully misrepresents himself and the vehicles he’s trying to sell. These vehicles could be stolen and/or mechanically unfit. They could have had their odometers tampered with or suffered serious accident and/or flood damage.

This type of curbsider deliberately deceives car buyers and will say and do anything to make a sale, always trying to stay one step ahead of the law. Here, there is clear criminal intent to intentionally rip off unsuspecting car buyers.

The second type of curbsider also sells cars privately for profit — the main distinction with this offender is that he may not deliberately misrepresent the condition of the vehicle. He merely flips cars for a profit.

This second type of curbsider is still breaking the law, as he lacks the necessary permit and licence to sell vehicles in this fashion.

All curbsider activity represents fraudulent activity. Anyone in Ontario who wishes to sell used vehicles must hold a valid Dealer Licence issued by the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC), and hold a valid Vendor Permit issued by the Ontario Minister of Finance.

Curbsiders use a variety of tactics to promote and advertise their vehicles, including newspaper ads, used car websites and online classified sites, such as Craigslist and Kijiji.

When buying a used vehicle from a private seller, it’s always a case of buyer beware. Whether you are buying from a stranger from Kijiji or a neighbour down the street, consumers need to understand the risks.

OMVIC has a page on its website ( www.omvic.on.ca) with information about what to look for and how to report a curbsider, as well as practical steps to reduce the odds of becoming the unwitting victim of a curbsider.

OMVIC also has investigators who are actively looking for curbsiders and who will not hesitate to bring offending parties to justice. In fact, just last week, a former salesperson was found guilty of an “unconscionable representation” under the Motor Vehicle Dealer Act and sentenced to seven months in jail.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation ( www.mto.gov.on.ca) provides detailed information about buying and selling a used vehicle on Ontario, including how to obtain a Used Vehicle Information Package.

If you do plan on buying a car privately, here are some curbsider practices to be aware of:

  • They will avoid meeting you at a fixed home or business address;
  • They are in a hurry and must sell because of a family emergency;

  • The name on the vehicle’s ownership and the seller’s driver’s licence don’t match:
  • They offer a deal that appears too good to be true;

  • They fail to produce a Used Vehicle Information Package;

Our industry is one of the most heavily regulated in Canada, and we invest considerable resources to ensure that our business activities are accountable and that all customers are treated fairly and honestly.

Consumers should ask themselves why they would roll the dice by buying a used car from a potential curbsider. When you buy from a registered car dealer, you are afforded many protections under the law — protections that aren’t available when you buy privately.

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