Watch Out For Car-Flippers Who Pretend To Be Private Sellers

Imagine that you’re shopping for your first used car, and check out private-party listings on Craigslist. You check out an older but affordable Honda Accord, and the friendly family man selling the vehicle showed you a clean title. Seems legit, right? Who goes around selling ’97 Hondas on Craigslist for huge profits? It turns out that a lot of people do, and they’re called “curbstoners.”

You know, because they’re selling cars at the curb, playing the part of regular dudes or dudettes who want to get rid of their car before buying a new one.

The scenario above really happened to a new dad serving in the Air Force, who took the seller of his Accord at his word. It turns out that the car was really a 1994 Accord, the odometer had been rolled back at least 60,000 miles, and its title wasn’t clean. It had been stolen, then totaled out by the insurance company. The title he saw was forged.

The good news is that he was able to straighten out the title, and the car seems safe and in good working order.

Here are some warning signs that the car seller you’re dealing with just might be a curbstoner:

  • They won’t let you run a Carfax report. (This should be obvious.)
  • Their name isn’t the one on the title.
  • They won’t give you any maintenance records.
  • Their phone number appears in an awful lot of classified ads.
  • They will not let you take the car to an independent mechanic for an inspection.
  • They will only accept cash.
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  1. APK1080 says:

    Any legitimate private seller wouldn’t be willing to take a check or credit card for a craigslist sale either.

    • SingleMaltGeek says:

      I don’t know, I took a personal check the one time I had to sell a late-model used car. We’re in the Washington, DC area, and the buyer used her work email to correspond with me about the sale, so I knew she worked for a branch of the Federal Government with which I am quite familiar. (And yes, I know to check the routing headers of emails to tell if the From address has been spoofed.) I therefore had no concerns about being able to find her in the unlikely event that the check bounced and I needed to sue her.