Getting a Carfax report can protect you from being scammed

A couple bought a car from a ‘curbstoner’ and wound up with a salvage title

File Photo
Richard Perry.

■ Richard Perry / The Hemet Car Guy

Greetings from the Hemet Car Guy!
A couple wanted to trade in their 2008 Honda Accord that they had recently bought. They still owed money on it but thought they were OK, because it had low mileage, yet believed they might not have any equity yet. Unfortunately, they were correct.
They believed they had bought the car from a private party who had placed it for sale on the street corner. As it turned out, they bought it from a “curbstoner. “
An unlicensed car dealer is known as a “curbstoner.” Typically this is someone who purchases low-end vehicles from private parties and salvage auction yards.
According to the DMV, “Curbstoners are people who actively and regularly buy and sell vehicles without a license, proper permits or a legally established place of business and who, many times, represent themselves as private sellers in order to attract buyers.”
Curbstoners typically create “pop-up” lots by parking multiple vehicles in one location often clogging city streets or public parking lots. They also lure potential buyers by advertising on websites like Craigslist.
One of the first things VIP Autos does when appraising a trade-in is to run a Carfax report on it.
When I ran a Carfax on the Accord, we discovered it had a salvage title—meaning it was deemed a total loss at some time. The wholesale value of a typical Accord like theirs was around $5,000, in good condition. However with a salvage title, it was worth much less—around $1,800. But in this case, the couple still owed $6,300 on it to the bank.
When I showed the young couple the Carfax report, they were in shock. The seller told them he was in a hurry to sell it because he was moving to Montana and needed a 4X4 up there and “needed to leave soon because he had a job waiting.” The buyers never even thought to get a Carfax report.
This predicament is not uncommon—yet it’s totally avoidable. The fact is anyone can get a Carfax report for any vehicle they’re thinking of buying, whether it comes from a dealer or a private party.
All you need is the VIN number—the 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number—and a few bucks. If you download a Carfax report from www.carfax.com, you will have to pay for it. However, the $39.99 you’ll spend will be well worth the investment if it saves you from making an expensive mistake.

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