This Halloween, Avoid the Apples, Kisses and Curbsiders
Thursday, October 24, 2019
Halloween is rather “spooktacular”. The warm light of summer has been forgotten as darkness arrives with dinner. The last few lifeless leaves are blown from trees only to be piled on front lawns in mock graves from which the dead will surely rise. Jack-o-lantern flames pierce the blackness, providing just enough flickering light to make it both scary and fun for the trick-or-treaters. Do you remember trick or treating? Can you recall the excitement of running from house to house; trying not to trip, or worse, lose any of the candies stashed in your pillowcase? And there was a secret communication between the young ghouls, witches and ghosts as they traversed the neighbourhood – where to find the best “loot.” Those were the houses you needed to find! Not the one giving out apples—the horror! And as soon as you got home, you’d dump the bag out on the floor; surely this was enough treasure to last until next October; unless of course, you were talking about those Halloween Kisses, the molasses staple of our childhood Octobers; surely those, could last years. On the off chance, you summoned the courage to eat one you prayed it wouldn’t suck the fillings out of your teeth. Halloween Kisses were the ‘lemons’ of the Halloween candy world.
As adults, little is as exciting and yet equally fearful as the Halloweens of our childhood…with perhaps one exception—buying a car. In that acquisition, many of us steel ourselves with the same heightened sense of “prepare for anything” as a nine-year-old on Halloween. Our fight-or-flight response is awakened; because this is, for most, a large purchase; it can be scary, and no one wants to get stuck with a lemon.
According to research conducted for OMVIC, Ontario’s regulator of vehicle sales, 59% of Ontarians fear getting stuck with a lemon when buying a vehicle privately; 13% fear overpaying for a vehicle that is misrepresented and 9% are concerned about the lack of maintenance records when buying privately. These are all legitimate concerns, particularly when you consider there is NO consumer protection law that protects a consumer who buys a vehicle privately; if something goes wrong, they’ll be on their own.
“Buying privately certainly has more risk than buying from a dealer,” explains Terry O’Keefe, Director of Communications and Education for OMVIC. “Perhaps the biggest danger is posed by curbsiders.” Curbsiders are illegal, unlicensed dealers. Commonly they pose as private sellers or operate from small automotive-related businesses like repair shops. “Often the vehicles they sell are rebuilt wrecks or have rolled back odometers.” Consumers who fall victim to these unscrupulous sellers have little recourse when they discover the truth about the vehicle they’ve bought. “Finding curbsiders after the transaction has been completed is nearly impossible for most consumers,” explains O’Keefe. “Very often the vehicle was not registered in the seller’s name, so the buyer doesn’t know who they bought from.”
OMVIC investigates and prosecutes curbsiders regularly; the penalties handed down by the courts for those convicted can be severe. But while enforcement sends a strong message to those who prey on unwary car-buyers, it doesn’t address the financial losses their victims suffer when they discover the true history of the vehicles they’ve purchased.
Buying a used car privately shouldn’t be as daunting as choking down one of those Halloween Kisses; it does however require two skills trick-or-treaters learn when searching for the best loot—vigilance and awareness.
As the regulator of motor vehicle sales in Ontario, OMVIC’s mandate is to maintain a fair and informed marketplace by protecting the rights of consumers, enhancing industry professionalism and ensuring fair, honest and open competition for registered motor vehicle dealers. Visit omvic.ca to learn more about your car-buying rights as well as additional tips for buying a car in Ontario.
For car buying tips, check out the OMVIC Academy . You can view other resources such as multilingual videos and download the OMVIC Car-buying Guide .
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Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council
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