Be wary of ‘curbers’ and get help when buying a used car

By Mira GalperinIf you’re shopping for a used car, be aware that there are both good and bad scenarios that could occur.

Scenario #1: Unhappy ending

I needed to buy a used car for my own use, so I went online to check the ads. One of them caught my eye.The picture was exactly what I wanted. And the price was really good. No address or location was given, but I called the listed number anyway.

I told the man who answered that I was interested in the car he had on Craigslist. He asked, “Which one?” I was surprised. Wouldn’t he have just one for sale? But I liked the price. He told me he had a lot of interested buyers, so I should meet him at the local mall in an hour.

I hesitated. I thought I’d be going to his home or office. But I went anyway. It seemed OK. He looked just like my neighbour.

The car wasn’t quite like the picture, so I started asking questions. He cut me off. He was in a hurry. He was moving and needed to get rid of the car.

He agreed to a quick test drive. He played loud music and talked the entire time. I got around the block and was asked to stop. I had to make a decision right away. I was unsure, but the car seemed fine and the price was good.

I told him I will get a bank cheque for him. He said, “No, cash only.”

I went to my bank and saw an AutoPlan agent to make the transfer and get insurance. It was only then that I saw the car was registered in a woman’s name, not his. Was this even his car? He even suggested we could report a lower price on the transfer form to save taxes. I still didn’t walk away.

Two days later, I got a vehicle history report through my insurance provider and CarProof. Too late! I found out the car was in a big accident and was imported from the salty roads of Montreal. These were important things he never told me and I didn’t ask. I wasn’t even sure the car was safe to drive.

I called him to take the car back. But his phone number was disconnected! I realized I had no documents with his name. I had just met a “curber” — an unlicensed dealer pretending to be a private seller. I was on my own with a bad car.

Scenario #2: Happy ending

I needed to buy a used car for my own use, so I went online to check the ads. One of them caught my eye.The picture was exactly what I wanted, but it was priced a little higher than my budget. The ad listed the dealer name and licence number. I called and got the address.

A salesperson met me when I got to the dealer’s lot. The car matched the picture and the price advertised online. All of my questions were answered.

We went for a long test drive. No music was played. The salesperson only talked when I asked him questions. He even presented me his salesperson licence.

After the drive, he showed me a CarProof vehicle history report. It included accident information and much more. The car had two small accidents, but the details were there for me to see.

He also had a recent mechanical inspection report done by the dealership mechanic. The report indicated the car was in good shape.

Since the car was more expensive than I wanted, I decided to finance it. The sales manager went over the purchase agreement and financing documents in detail. I was able to transfer the registration and buy my insurance from the AutoPlan agent at the dealership.

I felt confident and excited about my new vehicle as I drove away.

Two days later, I learned about the Vehicle Sales Authority (VSA) in B.C. I don’t think I’ll ever need their help, but, because I bought from a licensed dealer, they’re there if I need them.

Under B.C. law, a licensed dealer must stand behind the statements they made during the sale. The vehicle they sold me had to be lien-free and safe to drive. If something turns out to be untrue, even if it was an honest mistake, I can turn to the VSA to investigate. I told my friend in Ontario about this, and learned there are similar organizations in other provinces too, such as the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC).

This article was first published in Boulevard magazine.

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