Avoid Curbsiders


Learn about the risks associated with buying a vehicle privately and how to spot a curbsider.

Illegal, unlicensed vehicle dealers are called curbsiders. They often pose as private sellers, though some may operate from small automotive businesses (for example, repair shops).

Curbsiders not only misrepresent themselves, they often misrepresent the vehicles they sell. Many are previous write-offs with undisclosed accident repairs and/or have an odometer that has been tampered with. Should problems arise after a vehicle purchase, curbsiders can be very difficult to track down.

Why should you care about curbsiders?

Car buyers who purchase vehicles privately and have fallen victim to a curbsider are not protected by OMVIC, its compensation fund, or the MVDA as we don’t regulate private vehicle sales.

Differences between OMVIC registered dealers and curbsiders

OMVIC-registered dealer Curbsider
• Bound by the regulations of the MVDA, Code of Ethics and other consumer protection legislation.
• Operate visibly in the community with a permanent lot.
• Possess and display OMVIC registration.
• Contribute to the compensation fund, a consumer protection fund.
• Operate illegally, ignore consumer protection legislation.
• Often misrepresent themselves and the vehicles they sell.
• Pose as private sellers though some may operate from a small automotive-related business.
• Difficult/impossible to track down after sale.
• Purchase not protected by the compensation fund.

Signs you may be dealing with a curbsider

  • Seller has multiple vehicles for sale.
  • Vehicle is priced below market value.
  • Vehicle is not registered in seller’s name or has only been registered in their name for a short period.
  • Private seller appears to operate from a business.
  • Private seller uses yellow mechanic’s licence plate (or red/white dealer’s plate) to drive vehicle.
  • Seller discourages purchase of CarFax or used vehicle information package (UVIP).
  • Seller refuses vehicle inspection by purchaser’s mechanic.
  • Seller doesn’t want to provide a receipt or proof of purchase that includes their name or address.

Tips to avoid curbsiders

A history report from CARFAX provides useful information on:

  • reported collisions/incidents
  • existing liens
  • past odometer readings
  • out-of-province registration information
  • theft recovery
  • Ministry of Transportation branding information (for example, salvage, irreparable, rebuilt, none)

By law, private vehicle sellers must provide the purchaser with a UVIP which often includes:

  • current registered owner and vehicle ownership history in Ontario
  • lien information
  • past odometer readings
  • estimated fair market value of vehicle (if available)

Carefully review the UVIP to ensure all pages are included. They are available from Service Ontario locations and online.

To obtain a UVIP or history report, a vehicle identification number (VIN) is required.

Curbsiders often sell vehicles that are not registered in their name. It’s important to ensure you’re dealing with the registered owner so consider the following:

  • Be bold. Always ask the seller for ID and compare it to the vehicle ownership: they must match.
  • Curbsiders may make excuses if they don’t match, so be extra vigilant if the vehicle is not registered in the seller’s name or has only been registered in their name for a short period of time.
  • Search our list of individuals who have been charged or convicted as illegal dealers.

To sell vehicles as quickly and easily as possible, curbsiders may offer a price that is too good to be true. They can do this because the vehicles are often odometer-tampered or undisclosed rebuilt write-offs.

No one sells vehicles for less than they are worth. If a deal seems too good to be true, that’s a warning, not an opportunity. Online resources may help determine vehicle value and price:

Even if you get maintenance records from the seller, have the vehicle inspected by a licensed mechanic – one you trust. A mechanic may find problems the seller did not disclose or know about. If the seller resists, walk away.