Nov. 30, 2015 By Laura A Shepard
The ads are all over Craigslist and other online marketplaces, but the merchandise is in plain sight, in driveways and parking spots on many residential streets.
“Curbstoning” refers to unlicensed car dealers posing as personal sellers and flipping inexpensive used cars for cash. These deals often occur on public streets and consumers have no recourse in the event that the car is defective, damaged or stolen.
Curbstoners often acquire damaged or totaled cars at auctions that have been salvaged, conduct minimal repairs so they appear safe, and then sell them quickly by offering them at prices well below the Kelley Blue Book value, according to a report released earlier this month by Assemblyman Francisco Moya (Jackson Heights) and State Senator Jeff Klein (Bronx).
The report, called “Curbstoning: Costs and Consequences,” was produced to buttress their agurment that there is a need for legislation to crack down on offenders by increasing the fine from $1,000 to $4,010. Curbstones caught parking cars on public streets would also be fined an additional $300 per vehicle.
Moya and Klein introduced the legislation to their respective chambers in June and it passed. On Nov. 10, the legislation moved to Governor Cuomo’s desk where it is awaiting his signature. They are urging him to sign it.
According to the report, 470,000 curbstone vehicles are sold in New York State annually.
“Curbstoners use public streets as their own personal showrooms,” Assemblyman Moya said in a statement. “Curbstoners monopolize 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.”
The report estimates that curbstoning costs the City and State approximately $56.4 million per year in lost tax revenue, in addition to the tickets, fines, registration fees and associated costs of vehicle ownership, that go unpaid by the unlicensed salesmen. Sales tax varies throughout the state, but typically 4 percent to New York State and 4.875 percent to the city for a total of about 8.875 percent.
The report also estimates that between 20 and 80 percent of the classified ads on Craigslist were placed by curbstoners. Moya and Klein launched an investigation where they matched sellers by contact information and found 93 potential curbstoners, 15 of which were in Queens, had listed a total of 277 postings.
The community suffers, “from the physical fact that these illegal and unregistered dealers park their wares on public streets, monopolizing limited parking spaces with cars that may not move until they are sold,” the report states. “These parking spots, already scarce in many areas of the state, are intended for the use of residents, visitors, and workers.”
The customers are often unaware of mechanical and electrical flaws, which place them and all other road-users at risk.
Customers, who are often young, poor or desperate, often end up paying thousands of dollars to repair these cars. Curbstoners do not provide any information about the vehicle’s history and often change the license plates to avoid detection and make their activities hard to track.