Curbstoning: How to Avoid This Common Scam
Clint Lawrence, founder of Motorcycle Shippers, industry consultant and ambassador of fun. [email protected]
We all love a good deal. But when it comes to buying a used motorcycle—buyers beware. There’s a common scam in the biker and auto world, and the target is you.
“Curbstoning” can be hard to spot because it simply looks like a great deal—not so different from any other great deal you might come across online. But the old proverb rings true: If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
What is Curbstoning?
You’ve probably come across a story like this in your time—or maybe even experienced it yourself. You see an incredible deal on a motorcycle in a classified ad, and it’s everything you are looking for. You call the seller, who convinces you that there are no issues with the motorcycle. He is letting it go for the usual reasons: the wife, lack of space, moving or age. You agree to meet the seller at a home address. After a quick test drive and a once-over, you’re convinced the bike is great and make an offer.
But then—he says he needs a “friend” to help with the final paperwork. When he gives you the title, there’s another name listed, not the individual you were just dealing with. You go to the registration office to transfer the title into your name only to find out that the “chain of title” is missing documentation and/or necessary signatures. You try to contact the individual you bought the bike from and find that they are not answering your calls.
Your impressive find was actually someone acting as dealer. It could still be a good deal, and you may be able to solve any issues with a bit of additional work on your part. The other possibility is that the person could be trying to pull one over on you.
How Can Your Protect Yourself?
If this has ever happened to you, don’t feel bad. It’s happened to many people who have purchased a used motorcycle or car. A DMV report revealed that nearly 100 citations and 70 warnings have been given out this year alone to unlicensed dealers. Authorities impounded more than 100 vehicles and made four arrests. And that was just in California. If you’ve ever walked away from what looked like a sketchy deal to avoid buying a lemon, consider yourself among the lucky few.
So what can you do when dishonesty abounds? Here are a few simple steps you can take to protect yourself against curbstoning. Knowing about it is the first step to protecting yourself against it.
- Don’t buy from the street
Curbstoning usually involves the selling you the bike on the curb rather than in the shop—hence, the name. They will pretend to not be selling for business, but they are generally trying to avoid buying a dealer’s license—and skirting regulations like state-required background checks in the process. Buyers should be wary that anyone acting as someone they are not may also be presenting a motorcycle that is not in the condition as stated.
Curbstoning is not technically illegal in every state. However, the DMV has reported that it often goes hand-in-hand with tax fraud, as the seller will neglect to put their name down in the chain of ownership to avoid paying taxes on the sale.
- Be very cautious with classified ads
Side-of-the-road sale techniques happen all over the U.S. on residential streets, in parking lots and at business centers. The unauthorized dealers exploit the fact that people generally feel better buying a used motorcycle if they’ve spoken to the previous owner. Most don’t have any insider knowledge of the previous history, maintenance or issues on the bike they’re selling. If you choose to buy used, make sure you buy from a fully-licensed used motorcycle dealer who knows his products or directly from the previous owner listed on the title.
Whatever the reason these unlicensed dealers do it, curbstoning is not the way you should buy your next bike. The underlying reasons can be dishonest, and could even be harmful if buyers don’t ensure some basic safety. Avoid curbstoning deals to save yourself troubles and money. Find a licensed dealer who values transparency in their transactions and offers a warranty on the motorcycle should anything go wrong. When buying from individuals make sure to check the title and registration to make sure you’re dealing with the actual owner of the bike.
Once you purchase your used motorcycle and throttle up your dreams of adventure, Motorcycle Shippers can take care of the rest by delivering your bike to your door—or wherever adventure may take you.