*The following is a contributed piece from the Vehicle Sales Authority, CarProof Vehicle History Reports and ICBC. For more, check out Black Press's sponsored program 'Walt the Curber' on Driveway Canada, an initiative from CarProof to illustrate the risks of buying a car from a private seller.
When buying a used vehicle, you should always do your homework – learn about the features, read reviews, and compare options to make the best decision for you and your family.
But if you're one of the 150,000 British Columbians who choose to buy from a private seller each year, there is another critical thing you should know: how to protect yourself from curbers.
Curbers are individuals posing as private sellers who intentionally sell questionable, and even unsafe, vehicles for a profit. The risk of being taken advantage of by a curber is high enough that the Mainland British Columbia Better Business Bureau recently named curbers in its 'Top Ten Sales Scam for 2014'.
You don't have to face this threat alone, however. The Vehicle Sales Authority of British Columbia (VSA), CarProof Vehicle History Reports and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) have joined forces to help you learn how to protect yourself when buying a used vehicle.
"As an intentional illegal activity, it's very hard to pinpoint the losses used vehicle buyers experience each year as a result of purchasing from curbers," said Jay Chambers, president of the VSA. "Consider this: the private used vehicle market in B.C. totals $900 million each year. If just one-quarter of those sales are related to curbers purposefully evading the law, consumers are putting $225 million at risk every year."
Unlike licensed dealers, curbers are not required to disclose the history and condition of a vehicle and, even if they do, they often lie or misrepresent the history. They offer none of the legal protection that comes with buying from a licensed motor dealer, such as the right to pursue recourse through the VSA. Even more important than the potential financial losses, there is no guarantee that the vehicle is even safe to be on the road.
"CarProof is proud to provide a critical tool for consumers to help protect themselves from curbers," said Paul Antony, president and CEO at CarProof Vehicle History Reports. "When you look at a CarProof report, you know the true detail of that vehicle's past no matter where it's been in North America. That is critical, so you can know if the seller is telling you the truth and giving you the complete picture and, most importantly, to make sure you make a good decision and don't buy a potentially unsafe vehicle."
A vehicle history report – available from ICBC and CarProof – can tell you a lot about the car you're thinking of buying, including whether it's been in crashes, written off and rebuilt, has any liens on it (money owing that you could be liable for) or if it's flood-damaged. Knowing this information is vital. As an example, flood-damaged vehicles do not qualify for on-road licensing or use anywhere in Canada.
"Buying a used vehicle without doing research can lead to an unsafe vehicle being on the road ˆ putting your life, and the lives of others, at risk," said Mark Blucher, president and CEO of ICBC. "When considering a used vehicle purchase, arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible before signing on the dotted line."
SIGNS YOU MIGHT BE DEALING WITH A CURBER:
- Is the phone number in the ad you're looking at also listed within ads for other vehicles? If you find more than one vehicle connected to the same phone number, and it's not a licensed dealer, they're likely a curber.
- The seller doesn't have the vehicle's original registration form, or the name on the registration is not their name. Ask the seller for ID to confirm they're using their real name.
- The vehicle year, make, model, body style or colour, don't match the description on the vehicle's registration form.
- The vehicle doesn't match the description when the Vehicle Identification Number (or VIN, found on the base of the driver's side dashboard near the windshield) is decoded.
- The vehicle's not at the seller's residence. Curbers usually insist on meeting at a public place, such as a parking lot, or on bringing the vehicle to you.
- The seller insists on cash only and says they're in a rush to make a sale.
- If the deal the seller is offering seems too good to be true, it probably is. Find out why before you buy.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF:
Know who you're buying from
Buy from a licensed motor dealer. You can check if a dealer is licensed on the VSA website.
Take a history lesson
Give it your own inspection
Confirm that the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the dashboard matches the registration form. Check for signs of tampering with the VIN, like loose or mismatched rivets, scratched numbers, tape, glue or paint. Check the odometer for signs of tampering ˆ make sure the numbers are aligned, the mileage is consistent with the age and condition of the vehicle (25,000 km a year is average). Take the vehicle for a test drive on local roads and the highway.
Bring in the professionals
Get an inspection done by a qualified mechanic. If you're not sure who should inspect the vehicle, the BCAA vehicle inspection is a good choice.
File the paperwork
If you buy privately, pay after the seller goes with you to the Autoplan office to complete the vehicle's transfer of ownership.
Follow your instincts
If at any point something causes you concern, walk away.