photo: Ben Harding/iStock

Steering Clear of Curbers

By Bonnie Staring

In the market for a used car, truck or SUV? After you’ve compared makes, models and mileage, there’s one more thing to consider: the person selling you the car. Curbers, also known as curbsiders, are individuals who pose as private sellers to flip cars and earn a profit.

“The problem with curbers is they are not accountable to the consumer,” explains Lynette MacLeod, manager of communications and education at the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC). “Curbers often sell vehicles with a number of mechanical and other serious issues, and when problems surface, these individuals are difficult to find.”

There’s always an element of risk involved in buying a second-hand automobile, but that risk can be mitigated by doing your homework—looking into the vehicle’s history, estimated resale value and other attributes. You can also choose to purchase only from an AMVIC-licensed dealership or used-car business.

Of course, being better informed about curbing is the best defence against falling prey to this illegal practice.

“As Alberta’s automotive regulator, we take consumer protection seriously, and shutting down these unscrupulous sellers is one of our top priorities,” MacLeod adds.

The more of these signs you spot, the greater the chance that you may be dealing with a curber.

• Multiple ads posted by the same person or under the same phone number. (Legitimate private sellers usually only have one vehicle to sell at a time.) Search for the seller’s name and phone number using Google. If you see a number of similar results, it may be a red flag.

More fuel for thought when buying a used vehicle

• The seller appears anxious to make the sale. Perhaps they try to dissuade you from taking the time to “think things over,” or maybe their follow-up calls are a little too eager or too numerous.

• The seller has a heartfelt tale about why he or she is selling quickly. This may be a tactic to make you feel reluctant to probe to deeply for more information.

• A deal that’s too good to be true.

Report them to AMVIC. The Council’s Consumer Services team will review each file and coordinate next steps. “If a breach of the automotive consumer protection laws AMVIC enforces is suspected, the complaint will go to our investigations team,” MacLeod says.

Reporting can pay off. Recently, a Lethbridge man filed a curbing complaint with AMVIC after purchasing a car for his daughter. “Investigators were able to connect the seller’s phone number to a possible curber they were already investigating,” MacLeod explains. The curber was charged, pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay $3,900 in court-ordered restitution.

No matter how much research you do beforehand, you need to be smart when it comes to purchasing a used vehicle.

Upon meeting the seller, compare his or her driver’s licence with the vehicle registration (the information on them should match) to confirm the seller actually owns the vehicle. You should also have the vehicle checked by an Alberta Vehicle Inspection Program–licensed garage. AMA members can visit select AARS facilities to get preferred vehicle inspection rates.

How to know when your new or used car is the subject of a recall

“With used vehicles, history is paramount,” MacLeod says. So consider getting a CarFax or Carproof vehicle history report. These reports, available through AMA, will help determine if the vehicle you’re considering has outstanding liens or has been in previous accidents.

You can also choose to do business exclusively with licensed vehicle sellers. Not sure where to start? Check out AMVIC’s searchable database at

No one should feel unduly pressured or rushed into purchasing a vehicle. If it seems like the seller is pushing for a quick sale, it may be the vehicle in question has a tampered odometer, is damaged or perhaps even be stolen.

“Above all, trust your instincts,” MacLeod says. “If something doesn’t feel right, there will always be other vehicles, so do not be afraid to walk away.”