By Bill Parry
State lawmakers are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign into law legislation that would stiffen fines and crack down on illegal car dealers known as “curbstoners,” who sell defective, damaged and stolen vehicles to unsuspecting victims.
Last week state Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) and state Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) released “Curbstoning: Cost and Consequences,” an investigation into shady, unlicensed dealers who pose as personal sellers and place advertisements online, ultimately luring consumers with promises of inexpensive used cars, parked in public spots all over the city. Consumers are left with no recourse after making street-side cash deals.
“Curbstoners use public streets as their own personal showrooms,” Moya said. “Curbstoners monopolizing parking spots create additional traffic congestion and sell dangerous vehicles to unsuspecting customers with impunity. They are untaxed and unregulated and they should be unwelcome in New York. After many years of advocating on this important traffic safety and consumer protection issue, I’m glad to see that is getting the attention it deserves. The Curbstoning Bill, which is on Gov. Cuomo’s desk right now, would stop curbstoners in their tracks.”
Their report revealed that nearly 470,000 curbstoned vehicles are sold in New York annually, leaving hundreds of thousands of potentially hazardous or defective vehicles in the hands of unsuspecting buyers. It is estimated that curbstoning costs the city and state nearly $56.4 million per year in lost tax revenue, in addition to the multitude of tickets, fines, registration fees and associated costs of vehicle ownership that go unpaid by the shady salesmen.
According to the report, with more than one-in-four classified ads for carson websites such as Craigslist likely being placed by a curbstoner, consumers looking to save money by purchasing a used vehicle are at an incredible disadvantage and in need of stronger protection under the law. The Curbstoner Bill would quadruple fines from $1,000 to $4,010, passed the legislature this year.
Because curbstoners operate outside the law, they are unregulated and untaxed, leaving the state with no way of knowing if the cheap cars dumped on consumers are safe, or even legally owned. Curbstoners often acquire damaged or totaled cars that have been salvaged, conduct minimal repairs to give the vehicles the appearance that they are safe and operational, and then sell them quickly by offering them at prices that are well below the Kelley Blue Book value.
“The curbstoner caught in our investigation parked 20 cars in a residential neighborhood that were uninsured, and then tossed tickets and ditched plates to avoid paying fines,” Klein said. “The VIN number of one of the cars an investigator was shown did not check out, leaving any potential buyer with no way to know whether this vehicle was damaged or even stolen. This is extraordinarily distressing. We need this legislation to become law so we can offer stronger protections to New York consumers and drive these shady dealers out of business.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr