An age-old scam has accelerated in Roswell, exploiting unsuspecting, and at times naive, car buyers.
Curbstoning, or “curbing” for short, is the repeated practice of illegally flipping cars. The curbstoner, or private individual, often purchases these vehicles at salvage title auctions, resulting in a car that has previously been wrecked or damaged rendering it uneconomical to repair. The cars are then parked on street corners or in parking lots and misrepresented as the curbstoner’s personal vehicle.
If you sell more than four cars a year, you need to have a dealer’s license, says Derek Marker, executive director of New Mexico Independent Automobile Dealers Association. Marker is also the owner of Albuquerque-based Marcar Auto Inc.
“Roswell is rampant with this stuff. It has been for a long, long time. It should be a state-addressed issue because the state is getting robbed of the most taxes. The city is too. But mainly the state, because the sales tax goes to the state,” said Pat McCarty, owner of Economy Motors. “They should attack this on a statewide basis, but they don’t. State legislatures are all asleep at the wheel. ”
Curbstoners do not pay the three percent motor vehicles sales and use tax, that is based on a vehicle’s sale price, as legally required. They leave the title open, transferring it directly from the prior owner to the buyer.
“If you have 100 cars, the average selling price is $10,000 at three percent sales tax. That’s $300, $300 times a 100 that’s $30,000, and let’s say you can do that in every city across the state. But there’s more than that,” Marker said. The problem has increased as curbstoners continue to recognize the lack of enforcement. “The attorney generals, the dealer licensing boards from most of the states in this country, they’re more worried about trying to control and correct the dealers that are doing business honestly,” Marker said.
The practice is a detriment to the consumer and those dealers that are conducting their business honestly and legally.
“It puts vehicles in the market and takes sales away from us. It also hurts the individuals because they’re buying junk and they don’t have any recourse… When an individual buys from anyone other than a dealer, they lose all their consumer protections. If you buy from us, we’re licensed, bonded, we’re covered by Lemon Law. We can’t lie to you,”McCarty said. At Economy Motors, McCarty includes a warranty with everything he sells, which he says you do not get when buying a car from an individual.
McCarty said the parking lots of Albertsons and Sears are two curbstoning hot spots. He advised consumers to look for clues such as a vehicle without a license plate, or a purple and yellow temporary tag on it, signifying it was purchased at an auction, with a cell phone number written on the windshield. “Or just check on it and make sure it doesnt have three different serial numbers. But most people don’t know to do that. They don’t buy cars everyday like we do. They don’t know the tricks of the trade,”McCarty said.
McCarty, Marker, and Reese Smolky, of Prestige Motors, spoke to the Roswell City Council at its regular business meeting on July 12, urging the councilors to establish a city ordinance to combat the problem.
“My impression is that it got the attention of several of the city councilors … One of the comments was that they want Roswell to be a leader in the state of New Mexico on this, which means that we’ll be starting from scratch as far as putting together an ordinance or some kind of direction on what to do. So we’ll be starting from square one but yes I definitely think that it’s something the city will probably pursue and see what we can do to ease that situation,”said Mayor Del Jurney.