Don’t Get Curbstoned!


“Curbstoned” is not a term you want to hear when describing a car you just bought.

While the word may conjure images of unfortunate accidents involving concrete curbing and mangled front ends, the term is actually used to describe cars sold by unlicensed “dealers.”

You’ve seen the abandoned parking lots filled with used cars and the empty city lots at busy intersections with cars for sale. The guys who run these impromptu car lots are called curbstoners. It’s a term I’ve heard only recently, so I did some research into who they are, why they do it, and why you should avoid them at all costs.

State laws everywhere prohibit private citizens from selling multiple vehicles, other than those they own the title to. Curbstoners look for quick profits and will often sell vehicles they are trying to flip or have acquired illegally. Many of the vehicles have hidden problems that can affect their safety, their value, and even their ability to be legally registered. Curbstoned vehicles may be salvaged or even pieced together from parts of other cars. They may have been written off as total losses by insurance companies due to collision, flood, or other damage. In short, these are vehicles you want nothing to do with!

You might think it’s nice and easy to avoid a curbstoned car, but many of these fake “dealer lots” have gone virtual. Instead of parking lots or along curbs, the sellers list multiple cars, often with the same contact number, across online and newspaper classifieds. Sniffing them out is pretty simple, though, when you ask the right questions.

When you call and wish to see the vehicle, offer to come to the seller’s residence. If he or she flat out refuses, put up your guard! Also make sure to ask if the seller owns the title to the car, how long he/she has owned it, why it’s for sale, if there’s been any work and/or damage done, and what the car’s best features are. Anyone who has owned and driven the car will easily be able to answer those questions with confidence. If the seller has multiple vehicles for sale, ask to see the dealer’s license. If all seems well, proceed with the test drive, the vehicle history check and a professional inspection.

If something seems off, politely hang up and move on to another vehicle. If you want to go one step a further, your state’s motor vehicle authority will happily take a report on unlicensed dealers. You can find where to report for your state here.

Do you see evidence of curbstoning in your state?


Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus


  1. @ Normand Cullerton
    Thanks, Normand. I should say, just because a car is being flipped doesn’t make the seller a bad person. But, I’d be leery of people who do it in volume, as in what Randy described. I’d hate to see someone get into a previously stolen or salvaged car!

  2. No Offense, but some of the best cars I have ever bought were “curb Stone” cars. I paid $1000 for a volvo that ran for 2 years, I put almost nothing into it, and then sold for $1500. not all people who flip cars are bad people.

  3. There’s one right down the street from me. It’s been operating for as long as I can remember, and multiple calls to the city where the cars are parked have yielded no results. All I can figure is that it is being operated by a city official, cop or relative. So at least in my area, the corruption is official. The bottom line, though, is that these operations appeal to people who want “somethig for nothing” and don’t want to pay a reasonable price, so they may just deserve what they get.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.