Are You Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller? Or a Curbsider?

If you’re in the market for a used car and respond to a classified ad from a private seller, make sure they’re not a curbsider. Curbsiders are people who pose as private sellers, but are actually running a business selling cars. However, they are not properly registered and attempt to skirt around consumer protection legislation that protects buyers only when purchasing from a registered dealer. In short, curbsiders are operating illegally and are likely selling you a damaged vehicle, a vehicle with undisclosed problems or even with a lien on it.

Why You Shouldn’t Buy from a Curbsider

Private sellers must provide you with a Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP) for the car. They obtain this from Service Ontario and it contains important history about the vehicle. A curbsider will likely not supply you with this information. This means you’ll know very little about the history of the vehicle.

In addition, because a curbsider is operating outside the law, they don’t wish to be found. Although you have very limited protection when you purchase from a private seller, if you purchased your car from a curbsider, you have even less because you will probably never find them again.

How to Spot a Curbsider

Curbsiders do their best to look like private sellers. If you believe you’re dealing with a curbsider, report the person to 1-888-NO-CURBS (662-8727) or email Look out for these signs.

  • When you first call the seller to inquire, simply say, “I’m interested in the car you have for sale.” If the seller responds with something like, “Which car?”, you’re likely dealing with a curbsider. Hang up.
  • Ask to see identification and the vehicle’s registration. If the names don’t match, don’t accept any excuses. Just leave.
  • If the names do match but the vehicle has been in the current owner’s name for a very short period of time, look elsewhere for a vehicle. Don’t accept any excuses for this discrepancy, either.
  • Inspect the UVIP. Ensure all pages are present. If the seller doesn’t have a UVIP, or pages are missing, leave.
  • Meet at the seller’s home. If the seller prefers a public location, like a mall parking lot, say “No” and continue searching for your next car.
  • Curbsiders may offer a price that looks like it’s too good to be true. Walk away.
  • Have your mechanic inspect the vehicle. If the seller refuses to allow this, shop for another car from another seller.

The Responsibilities of a Private Seller

There is never a guarantee that a private seller is not a curbsider. Buying a used car privately, whether from a legitimate private seller or a curbsider, is an unprotected transaction. However, should you choose to buy your next vehicle privately, here is a summary of what the private seller must provide you with:

  • The Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP)
  • The Bill of Sale provided with the UVIP, properly filled out and signed if you choose to purchase the car
  • The Application for Transfer, with the seller’s portions completed

When you purchase the vehicle, you must receive the complete UVIP and the vehicle portion of the registration permit. As I mentioned above, if the seller doesn’t give this information to you, or you believe what you have been given is suspicious, stop the deal and walk away.

Buyer Beware

Any private sale is buyer beware. If you’re in the market for a used car, purchasing from a car dealer registered with the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council gives you consumer protection rights, including possible access to a compensation fund should your dealer not fulfill their part of your agreement.

And should you spot a curbsider, please report it. That information again: 1-888-NO-CURBS (662-8727) or

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