Curbstoning laws

Curbstoning Laws

What exactly is curbstoning? This is a serious issue that is typically found in private used vehicle sales. This blog post will help you understand what curbstoning is, how to identify curbstoners, and the essential steps to protect yourself when buying a used car.

Understanding Curbstoning

Curbstoning is an illegal practice where individuals sell pre-owned vehicles without the necessary permits and consumer safeguards, often selling multiple cars. It doesn't seem like a big deal at first glance, but buying from a curbstoner leads to serious issues such as:

  • acquiring a dangerous or worthless vehicle
  • no legal recourse if something goes wrong with the vehicle
  • no warranty or guarantee on the vehicle
  • potential for hidden damage or undisclosed issues

It is important to be aware of the risks associated with curbstoning and to always purchase vehicles from reputable sources.

In a world where the majority of used cars sold happen online, it’s more important than ever to be aware of the risks associated with this shady practice and learn how to protect yourself.

Definition and Background

Curbstoning refers to the practice of unlicensed dealers pretending to be private sellers to sell used cars. This allows them to circumvent regulatory requirements and insurance company safeguards. These individuals often sell cars from the curb or a parking lot, just as a private seller would. By posing as such, curbstoners avoid meeting certain consumer protection criteria that licensed auto dealers must follow.

Risks for Buyers

As a buyer, you would think you’re getting a great deal from a private seller, but what if you're actually dealing with a curbstoner? Risks associated with purchasing a seller’s private car, especially used cars, from curbstoners include:

  • potential title transfer issues
  • previously damaged vehicles
  • odometer tampering
  • limited consumer protection.

Title transfer issues arise when the seller is unable to provide the title to the vehicle or transfer the title to the buyer, especially when they are selling multiple cars. Previously wrecked vehicles are dangerous to drive because they have not been adequately repaired or inspected. Odometer tampering leads to inflated resale values and unexpected maintenance costs due to inaccurate mileage readings.

Without consumer protection safeguards, buyers generally are not able to get refunds or compensation if they buy from curbstoners.

Identifying Curbstoners

Knowing how to identify curbstoners and being aware of the signs of curbstoning will save you time, money, and potential heartache. Let’s dive into some tips for identifying curbstoners and protecting yourself from their scams.

Online Classified Ads

Online classified ads are one of the most common methods curbstoners use to sell their vehicles. They typically list multiple vehicles for sale, making it easier to spot them by searching for their contact number. To identify curbstoners on online classified ads, look for inconsistencies in contact information, such as multiple phone numbers or addresses.

Inconsistent Contact Information

Inconsistent office or contact information is a major red flag when dealing with a potential curbstoner. Pay close attention to the title and driver’s license of the person selling the car, especially if the names and addresses on the title and driver’s license do not match.

You should also be cautious if:

  • The seller’s name does not appear on the vehicle’s title
  • The same seller’s phone number appears in multiple advertisements
  • The listings contain dealership-related information

These indicators often suggest that the seller is a curbstoner trying to deceive buyers.

Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

Checking the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) is another means to identify curbstoners. The VIN is a unique 17-digit code that is assigned to each vehicle for identification and historical purposes. Potential indications of curbstoning through VIN include:

  • Discrepancies between the VIN number listed in the advertisement and the VIN number on the vehicle
  • Multiple listings with the same phone number
  • Branded titles indicating salvage, rebuilt, or flood damage
  • The absence of a dealer license for the seller

To verify the VIN, consult the vehicle’s registration documents, title, or the vehicle itself. Alternatively, use a VIN decoder to obtain the vehicle’s history.

Essential Steps to Avoid Curbstoning

It's time to learn the necessary steps to avoid being a victim of curbstoning. Taking the precautions below will help you avoid buying a car with undisclosed issues or becoming a victim of common scams. The following sections explore each of these steps in more detail.

Verify Ownership

Verifying ownership of the car is crucial to avoid curbstoning scams. To do this, check if the name and address on the car’s title match the details of the individual selling it to you. If they aren't, consider it a warning sign of potential curbstoning.

If you’re still unsure about the seller’s identity, use online search tools such as Google and Yelp to verify the person’s information.

Obtain a Vehicle History Report

Obtaining a vehicle history report is another essential step in protecting yourself from curbstoning scams. Services like AutoCheck and CARFAX provide detailed vehicle history reports on a car’s past, including:

  • Ownership history
  • Accident history
  • Whether it has a salvage title
  • If the odometer has been rolled back

Use the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) to learn about the car you’re interested in. A vehicle history report reveals vital information that are otherwise hidden from you, such as previous accidents, flood damage, or odometer rollback.

Get the Car Inspected

Having a certified mechanic inspect the car before purchase will help identify any hidden problems or signs of tampering. The mechanic should evaluate any mechanical issues, as well as any signs of damage or wear and tear.

They should also inspect the car’s safety features, such as the brakes, tires, and lights. Taking this extra step will help you determine if the car you’re buying is in good condition and free from curbstoning-related issues.

Dealing with Curbstoned Cars

If you’ve discovered that you’ve been a victim of curbstoning, it’s important to know your rights and how to proceed. Reporting the incident and exploring legal options can help protect you from further harm and ensure that the curbstoner is held accountable for their actions.

In this section, we’ll discuss what to do if you’ve been a victim of curbstoning, including reporting the incident and exploring your legal options.

Reporting Curbstoning

It’s essential to report to the proper authorities if you suspect you’ve been a victim of curbstoning,. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Contact your local consumer affairs office
  2. Contact the Motor Vehicle Administration or state department of motor vehicles to file a complaint
  3. Reach out to the state Attorney General’s Office for further assistance

Providing as much information as possible about the incident will help authorities investigate the curbstoner and prevent future scams.

Legal Options

Consider seeking legal advice and exploring your options for filing a civil claim against the curbstoner. Certain circumstances and laws in certain jurisdictions provide victims with damage reparations or other remedies. Consult with an attorney experienced in consumer protection or automotive law to help you understand your rights and determine the best course of action.

It is important to take action to protect yourself and other consumers from unscrupulous curbstoners.

Tips for Finding the Right Vehicle

It’s time to find the right vehicle for you, now that you know how to to identify curbstoners and protect yourself. This section provides tips for researching the make and model of the car you’re interested in and conducting a test drive and inspection.

Using these tips will give you confidence to navigate the used car market and avoid falling victim to curbstoning scams.

Research the Make and Model

It’s essential to research the make and model you’re interested in before you start searching for it in the marketplace. Online resources such as Kelley Blue Book,, TrueCar, and JD Power provide valuable information about a car's value, potential issues, and manufacturer warranties.

Researching the make and model give you a better understanding of its features, reliability, and potential problems, helping you protect yourself from a curbstoner's tactics.

Test Drive and Inspection

Taking the car for a test drive is an important step of finding the right vehicle. During the test drive, pay close attention to how the car handles, any unusual sounds, and the overall feel of the car. Ensure that all features, such as brakes, steering, and lights, are functioning properly and assess any signs of wear and tear, including rust or dents.

It's also a good idea to hire a certified mechanic to inspect the car before purchase. The mechanic should evaluate any mechanical issues, as well as any signs of damage or wear and tear. This will help you identify any hidden problems or signs of tampering by a potential curbstoner.


Curbstoning is a widespread issue in the used car market that often leads to serious risks and financial losses for buyers. Understanding curbstoning, learning to identify curbstoners, and taking the necessary steps to avoid scams provides buyers with protection and confidence in the used car market. Always remember to verify ownership, obtain a vehicle history report, and have the car inspected before making a purchase. With these tools and tips, you’ll be well on your way to finding the right vehicle and avoiding the pitfalls of curbstoning.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the meaning of curbstoning?

Curbstoning is a deceptive practice whereby dealers pose as private sellers to avoid regulations and sell cars, potentially with salvaged titles, to unsuspecting buyers.

This practice tends to be difficult to detect, as the cars often appear to be in good condition and the seller doesn't disclose the true nature of the vehicle.

Why is it called curbstoning?

Curbstoning is derived fr0m the practice of unlicensed car dealers selling vehicles on the street or “at the curb” instead of a dealership location. This illegal activity is often done by posing as private sellers and advertising cars in newspapers classified sections.

What does curbing mean in car sales?

Curbing in car sales refers to the practice of reselling a vehicle without signing over the title. This practice is dangerous for both the buyer and the seller, as the buyer is often not made aware of any potential issues with the vehicle, and the seller is unable to prove ownership of and legal authority to sell the vehicle.

How many cars can I sell without a license?

It depends on the jurisdiction. Different states have different restrictions. In Maryland, for instance, if you sell fewer than five motor vehicles per year, you don’t need to obtain a dealer license. However, anyone selling more than three vehicles within a 12-month period is considered an unlicensed dealer.

How can I identify a curbstoner?

Identify a curbstoner by looking for inconsistent contact information in online classified ads, checking the VIN, and verifying ownership of the vehicle.

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