Forrest Gump’s mama was right – “life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.”
Who doesn’t love the taste of a delicately handcrafted, square shaped, chocolate covered caramel - with a little sprinkle of sea salt on top? It’s divine! But when you bite into a similarly square shaped chocolate and are met with a pungent, medicinal orange flavour or a thick, white mystery filling… you can’t help but feel deceived.
Buying a car privately can sometimes leave you with a similar feeling of disappointment. Albeit, on a far greater scale, not to mention you can’t get the bad taste out of your mouth by simply disposing of the disappointment discreetly into a tissue.
OMVIC, Ontario’s vehicle sales regulator, often takes calls from consumers who experienced an ‘unpleasant surprise’ after purchasing a vehicle privately. In most cases the vehicles looked great and the sellers sang their praises. But shortly after purchase, the buyers quickly discovered their cars weren’t what they expected… they were “carfished”.
“Buying a car privately comes with considerable risk,” explains Terry O’Keefe, OMVIC’s Director of Communications and Education. “Unlike registered dealers, private sellers are not regulated by OMVIC. They don’t have to abide by Ontario’s mandatory disclosure laws that requires the buyer to be made aware of a vehicle’s past-use, history and condition.” Worse, some “private sellers” are actually curbsiders (illegal dealers posing as private sellers).
Avoid Curbsiders at all Costs!
Research conducted by the regulator shows that 25 percent of “private”, classified, car ads found online are actually placed by curbsiders. These illegal, unlicensed dealers commonly sell vehicles that are previous write-offs with undisclosed accident repairs, or are odometer-tampered.
Buying a vehicle from a registered dealer doesn’t guarantee there won’t be any problems, but as O’Keefe puts it, “it is definitely the safest way to buy.” However, if a consumer decides to buy privately, forgoing the protections offered by OMVIC, Ontario’s consumer protection laws and the Motor Vehicle Dealers Compensation Fund, the vehicle sales regulator strongly encourages them to follow these steps:
- Beware of vehicles priced below market value; this is often a sign you may be dealing with a curbsider or an indication the vehicle has undisclosed issues.
- Know who you’re buying from! Confirm the vehicle is registered to the seller; check ID and vehicle ownership. The names should match!
- Ask questions: how long was the vehicle owned? Are there maintenance records? Why is he/she selling?
- Take a thorough test drive, not just a quick spin around the block.
- Check for any accident history: purchase and review a vehicle history report like CarProof.
- Carefully review the Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP); the seller is required to provide it.
- Ensure there are no liens (for outstanding loans/debts) on the vehicle or take steps to ensure any lien is removed. Lien info is usually available on the UVIP or CarProof report.
- Have the vehicle inspected by a trusted mechanic before purchase! This will help identify problems the seller failed to disclose or was unaware of.
- Request a receipt that includes the seller’s information and actual price paid.
Buying a used car doesn’t have to be as nerve-wracking as choosing the tastiest chocolate in the box. There are steps consumers can take that will help them determine what they are actually getting. Yes, some may cost a bit of money (like a pre-purchase inspection), but in the end they could save car buyers thousands of dollars… and a lot of disappointment.
To learn more about your car buying rights or how to spot a curbsider, visit: OMVIC.ca.