NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Are you hoping to get a new vehicle this holiday season?

State officials are warning consumers about shady auto dealers who flip bad cars and sell them illegally. They are called “curbstoners.”

Curbstoning is the illegal side of used vehicles under the false pretense of being the car’s owner in order to evade city or state regulations.

“A curbstoner is someone who doesn’t have a license. A curbstoner is someone who just wants to do a private sale. A curbstoner is going to be offering you an amazing deal. A curbstoner is going to be someone who is going to be approaching you rather than you approaching them,” said Kevin Walters, Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance spokesman.

The term “curbstoning” comes from the practice of parking automotive “inventory” along the curb, although many curbstoners also use vacant lots and unmonitored parking lots as temporary places of business.

Those deals are often too good to be true.

Walters said curbstoners typically sell consumers salvaged vehicles they get from flooded areas or junkyards. They have the vehicle cleaned and oftentimes change the car title, leaving the unsuspecting driver with a messed-up car.

“You’re going to be getting into a vehicle that might break down on you or worse, might be a hazard on the road if it does indeed drive,” Walters said.

The scammers don’t just sell cars on the curb like they used to. They also use the internet.

“Curbstoners are on social media. Curbstoners are waiting to find you any way scammers can find you,” Walters said.

There are some things you can do to protect yourself:

  • Do your due diligence by researching the seller.
  • Get Paperwork: Do not leave the lot without copies of everything that you signed. 
  • Make sure you purchase certified used vehicles from licensed dealerships with established names. 
  • Contact the Tennessee Department of License and Insurance if you believe you’ve been tricked. 
  • Tennesseans can check a car dealer’s license status by visiting

“We’re happy to be able to help you to get more information before you pull the trigger and make a deal that can cost you thousands of dollars,” Walters said.

At the sale site: 

  • Examine the car carefully
  • Check the condition of the engine, the wear, and any sign of an accident.
  • Take a test drive. 
  • Get a vehicle history report at 
  • If purchasing a used car, have an independent mechanic check the car. Do not buy if the dealer will not let you have it inspected. Many safety defects will not be identified during a standard inspection so you should also check for recalls.
  • Review the contract carefully. Make sure all agreed upon repairs and warranties written on the purchase contract before you sign. Never sign a blank, incomplete or unclear contract or buyers guide.
  • Get the mileage in writing and ensure it matches the vehicle’s odometer.
  • If the dealer is to complete the title work for you, be aware that you may be asked to sign a Limited Power of Attorney authorizing the dealership representative to sign your name to the title and registration documents. Read this form closely and get a copy before leaving. is now with you on the go! Get the latest news updates and video, 4WARN weather forecast, weather radar, special investigative reports, sports headlines and much more from News4 Nashville.

>> Click/tap here to download our free mobile app. <<

Copyright 2019 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.