Buyer beware: steer clear of the dreaded ‘curbsider’ when buying a used vehicle

Published On
October 3, 2022

In the motor vehicle sales industry, curbsiders are a well-known problem. They pose as private sellers, pretending to sell a personal motor vehicle, but they are actually in the business of buying and selling vehicles for profit without a professional licence or registration, which is illegal in Ontario.

They might misrepresent themselves and their vehicles – selling used wrecks to unsuspecting customers: concealing accident history, hiding repairs, or tampering with (rolling back) the vehicle’s odometer.

Imagine you’re searching for a used car online. You come across what looks like a great deal, and you message the seller, who is eager to connect and finalize the sale.

A week later, after a trip to your mechanic, you realize the car you purchased is an insurance write-off. It was sold at auction following a serious accident. Its odometer has been tampered with, and it’s missing crucial safety elements, like airbags

Curbsiding is illegal in Ontario, but in the age of supply chain disruptions and low inventories, it’s on the rise. In fact, the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC), Ontario’s motor vehicle sales regulator, estimates at least 25 per cent of vehicles listed online as “for sale by owner” are placed by curbsiders.

The worst part is, if you buy from an unregistered source, your options for recourse are limited if something goes wrong. Consumer protection legislation provides vehicle-buying protections only when consumers purchase from an OMVIC-registered dealer.

How to spot a curbsider, and what to do to protect yourself

Arm yourself with knowledge about curbsiders at early in your buyer’s journey, so you can avoid any surprises along the way. There are several telltale warning signs to watch for.

  • Always ask the seller for ID and proof of ownership. If the vehicle is not registered in the seller’s name or it has only been registered for a short period of time, it’s a red flag.
  • Be wary of any seller who refuses an inspection and be sure to purchase a vehicle history report so you’re aware of any undisclosed accident history.
  • Be sure to also purchase a used vehicle information package, also known as a UVIP, from the Ministry of Transportation. This will provide information on liens, as well as owner and odometer history.
  • Make sure the vehicle’s odometer has not been tampered with. Be on the lookout for excessive wear on the interior or exterior of the vehicle.
  • If the seller has more than one vehicle available for sale, or they are operating out of an automotive-related business – such as a repair shop, gas station or car rental agency – they’re probably not selling their own personal vehicle.
  • If the vehicle is priced below market value, be suspicious. Do your research, know the vehicle’s current market value, and remember: if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

If you think you’re dealing with a curbsider, report them to or call 1-888-NO-CURBS (662-8727).

Fear not! Buy from an OMVIC-registered dealer

OMVIC administers and enforces the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act on behalf of the Ontario Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery, which OMVIC-registered dealers are required to adhere to. To identify an OMVIC-registered dealer, look for the blue and yellow decal on dealership doors and windows or find registrants listed in the dealer search section of the OMVIC website.