The World of Illegal Car Sales
COLUMBIA-From the roadsides to the classifieds to Craigslist, it's easy to find a used car for sale. But if you're not careful, you may be buying from an illegal dealer called a curbstoner who sells six or more cars a year without a license to deal.
Tammy Adams and her husband opened a local dealership, Wholesale Collection, Inc., in 1994. She says for nearly two decades curbstoners have hurt her family business.
"It's been an issue since we started in the business. A lot of people think they can just take their cars down to the corner, park them, sell them and go buy some more," Adams said.
As a buyer you run the risk of not knowing the truth behind the car's history and condition. If you buy a car from a curbstoner and find a mechanical or other problem with the car: tough luck. By then, the seller will be long gone.
"People can get in a lot of trouble buying a car like that if they don't do their homework," said Tammy Adams.
Curbstoners bypass the licensing process and the Missouri Department of Revenue is cracking down.
"In certain circumstances we can ask a local prosecutor to get involved if we notify them of the violation," said Ted Farnen, Director of Communications at the Missouri Dept. of Revenue. "If he agrees to go forward with the case, that's when it will go to a criminal violation."
Farnen says his office has investigated 56 car-selling complaints in the past eight months. Thirty-one of those complaints were related to curbstoners operating without a dealer's license.
"A lot of these cars on the curb aren't good cars," said Adams. "Make sure you have them inspected before you buy one."
The crackdown on curbstoners begins with you, the buyer. To report a possible curbstoner, contact the Missouri Department of Revenue.
Farnen and Adams offer tips to avoid curbstoners,
- Ask to see the title and make sure it's in the seller's name.
- Look up the Carfax report. It costs $40 and will save you money in the long run.
- And be cautious of cars sold in vacant lots. Licensed dealers must operate out of a building.