sold by unlicensed dealers. So how do you avoid curbstoning? Try these tips:
• Know with whom you're dealing: Try to stick to established, reputable car dealers. If you do decide to visit a private seller, ask to see his or her driver's license and make sure the name is the same on the title. Avoid meeting in a parking lot if possible. Also, make sure you have a way to get back in touch with the seller once you've purchased the vehicle. Beware of a seller who only provides his or her cell phone or pager number or an e-mail address.
• Know your history: Ask to see any service records the vehicle may have and get a history of the vehicle. You can get a vehicle history report from a service called Carfax. The reports can reveal hidden secrets in the car's past-such as whether it was in an accident or flood. They can even help you spot odometer fraud (the illegal practice of rolling back a car's odometer to make it appear less used).
• Know what's under the hood: Take the car to a trusted mechanic for a complete inspection. Inspections can turn up evidence that the car was rebuilt after an accident, as well as a variety of mechanical problems that could cost money down the road. Be wary of any seller who discourages you from taking a vehicle to a mechanic before buying.
• Know your mileage: Look for signs of odometer tampering. If a car says it only has 15,000 miles on it, take it for a spin and see if it feels like a relatively new car. If it doesn't, the odometer may be off. Also, a car should have its original tires if it has fewer than 20,000 miles on it. If it doesn't, that could be a sign of fraud.
For more information, visit www.carfax.com.