Curbstoning

Definition (from the Internet)

“Curbstoning” is the business of “flipping” used cars for profit while posing as a private seller. Curbstoners typically buy problem vehicles (eg. cars with a salvage title) at an auction and will represent the car as their own.

What are the Risks?

Buying from a curbstoner increases your risk of being unable to transfer a title. A curbstoned sale may seem like a steal-of-a-deal but could actually be a previously wrecked vehicle, one with a “rolled back” odometer, or even a stolen vehicle. Curbstoners do not comply with state or federal laws and any dealings with them are not protected.

The Search

The last few weeks, we’ve been looking for another vehicle. Our family now has six drivers. Five will be taking class at Orange Coast College this spring and several have part-time jobs. Currently we only have two vehicles. Although I take the bus to work, a third vehicle is becoming more and more necessary.

We started looking in earnest right after Christmas. The first vehicle that we saw and test drove looked great; then we ran the VIN through AutoCheck.com and found that it had a salvage title. The second car was nice but the “Brake” warning light was on due to an ABS problem.

Our Search Strategy

Several family members would search for a suitable vehicle. Here’s the procedure:

  • Search Craigslist for a fuel-efficient car under $5,000.
  • Google the phone number. Make sure that the phone number is entered like 714-555-1234.
  • Check the search results to see if the person has (or had) other vehicles listed for sale. If yes, then it’s an automatic red flag.
  • Check MSN Autos by typing the year, make, model and the words “msn reliability” to check the reliability. We wanted to see all green checks or low-cost repairs.
  • Check Kelley Blue Book (kbb.com) to get a feel for the car’s value. Generally most listings had prices significantly over the KBB prices. Curbstoners would be under the KBB price.

Recognizing Curbstoners

We learned to recognize tell-tale signs like:

  • The price is too good to be true.
  • The description makes it sound like a cream-puff.
  • The description is stuffed with lots of other makes and models (to make their listing appear in more searches).
  • They would hide or disguise their phone numbers. They might substitute the letter “O” for 0 or the letter “I” for 1. Or they might spell out a number like “four”.
  • They would post a price of $1 but put the actual price in the description.

Our Story

I wrote up our our curbstoning experience in a separate blog post.

Our Curbstoning Experience

Our Story

So yesterday, Jeri and I see the below ad for a Ford Focus. We checked the phone number and didn’t find any other vehicles listed. So it seems legit. I send a text to the number.

Click for full size.
Click for full size.

A little later, Mike calls me. He says that he’s owned the vehicle since 2008. I ask about the timing belt; he’s says that the timing belt and water pump were replaced last year. After I ask if we can see it, he gives me his address.

Jeri and I eat a quick bit for lunch and then head out. Because he is in Riverside (about 50 miles away), it will take us over an hour to get there. Although it is Martin Luther King Jr’s holiday, we will still encounter a bit of traffic.

Driving Out

As we’re driving out, Mike texts us and asks if we are on our way. He then says (via text) that he’s been called in to work and won’t be able to show us the car. However his cousin will be there. We’re going as fast as we can because we hope to catch Mike before he leaves.

No One Home

When we get to the house, no one answers the door. We wait and ring the doorbell multiple times. Finally we text Mike who says that he’ll call and wake up his cousin.

A little later an Asian woman comes to the door. She says that neither Mike nor his cousin are home. By the way, the house looks immaculate inside…beautiful furniture and decor. And the house is in a very nice neighborhood.

Looking and Waiting

We walk around the car which is sitting in the street. We notice that the registration has expired on the car over six months ago. We text Mike a few more times. He says that his cousin went to the mall and would be back in 30 minutes. Even though we don’t like the looks of things, Jeri and I figure that we’ve already taken the time to drive out here so we might as well wait a little longer.

Cousin Arrives

Finally Mike’s cousin shows up driving an Audi A4. He’s black which means that he’s most likely not related to the lady who answered the door. The cousin goes into the house and returns with the car key.

We get inside the car and start looking around. The car isn’t in very good shape.

The Paperwork

We ask to see the paperwork so he retrieves the title and registration for the car. As I look at the title, I notice that it is for an entirely different car…a 1997 Mitsubishi. However that wasn’t the only problem. The title had been signed over last month (Dec. 2013). The seller had signed over the title and recorded the price as $1,700. However the buyer information was left blank. We suspect that they are curbstoning the Mitsubishi.

We also notice that the registration for the Focus that we’re looking at was under the name of Steve not Mike. There were a lot of service records in the glove compartment were under Steve’s name starting in 2008. A receipt show that Mike had indeed paid the registration fee (several months late). Now we know why he didn’t have the sticker…it was mailed to Steve.

This is a Curbstoner

So now it’s becoming apparent that this is a curbstoner operation. We didn’t let on that we knew. Since the cousin couldn’t find the correct title, there’s no way that we could have purchased the vehicle even if we had wanted.

We chalked up our wasted afternoon as a lesson learned and we’re glad that we didn’t get taken.

Do you have any experiences with curbstoners?

Flag Football October 2013

Justin and I played flag football again today. I had a GREAT time!

We started out with just two teams playing six-on-six. As the stragglers showed up, we soon had over four subs per team. So they wisely setup a second field and, at halftime, we split into four teams. We ended up playing three more games of five-on-five.

My teams always had one sub which meant plenty of action. I finished the day with 10 catches (including six touchdowns), one interception (it was an extra point attempt that he threw right at me), and four sacks (I did a lot of rushing).

I did have two drops where the ball hit me in the hands. In the first one, I looked for the ball too late; the ball bounced off my hands into the hands of the defender. In the second, Rob Ferguson did a quick shovel pass to me; I turned to look up field too soon and dropped the ball.

I should have had one more TD. It was fourth and long, deep in our territory. Trevor had me run a streak down the left sideline; he had Fred (in the left slot next to me) run to the first down cone (at midfield) and square out. I Figured that I was the decoy to draw the coverage deep so Fred could make the first down catch. I saw the cornerback break with Fred when Fred made his cut. I looked back…no defenders were anywhere near, Trevor saw me wide open and threw me the ball. I had looked inside over my right shoulder. The ball was coming over my left shoulder when I tried to turn to adjust, I tripped and fell. Bummer.

Here are a few of my better catches.

We were deep in our territory. I ran down the left sideline past midfield and cut right. Rob sees me in the middle of the field. The ball is coming in really low. I catch the ball as it touches the grass but before it hits the ground.

On another play, we are only seven yards or so from the endzone. Rob has me start in the right slot and run into the right flat. Just as I reach the end zone, I turn and look. The ball was coming in. I got my hands up and caught the ball for the score.

In another play, I was playing center and we were less then ten yards from the goal line. After I realized that no one was rushing, I released into the end zone and slipped behind the defenders. Rob sees me open and lofts the ball over my head. I look up to find the ball coming out of the sun and catch it just before I step out the back of the endzone.

In another play from midfield, I went deep down the right sideline. Rob launches the ball. Two defenders converge on me as I reach the endzone. I hear each of them say “I got it. I got it.” They both go up for the ball but neither of them get it. I bobbled the ball but I end up catching it in the back of the endzone for a score.

For my sixth score, we were about five yards from the goal line. I’m on the right side. Rob sees me and throws the ball for me to catch at the back right cone. I catch the ball cleanly as I go to the ground.

Flag Football July 2013

Justin and I have played flag football four out of the last five Saturdays and seven times since May 1st. Prior to May of this year, I hadn’t played since sometime last year.

This past Saturday was particularly fun. We played three games of six on six. I ended up with six catches for two touchdowns. I had one additional catch but I was out of bounds so the extra point attempt didn’t count.

My favorite catch was in the third game. We were getting close to the end zone. I lined up on the left side, ran to the end zone, and cut right. I was open after I passed the safety (Drake). Trevor (our QB) saw me and hit me just as I neared the right sideline. Just as I got my hands on the ball, Drake collided with me from behind and reached around to try to strip the ball from my hands. Thankfully, I had caught the ball cleanly and was able to hold on. After I got up from the ground, Drake said “Good catch, Tim.”

Drake is a great guy and excellent safety and receiver. He plays in a league. On Saturday, he had multiple interceptions…several he returned for touchdowns.

Towards the end of the last game, I was lining up on the left side. Because we weren’t calling plays at this point, all of the receivers were running whatever routes they wanted. Being right-handed, Trevor favored rolling to his right. Thus I was being left out of the action. So on the next play, I decided to slant right from the left side.

After cutting inside of the corner, I looked back to see Trevor rolling LEFT. He thought that I was going to cut back behind the corner into the wide open corner of the end zone. Unfortunately I couldn’t change direction in time and the ball dropped to the ground. If I had made that last catch, I would have finished the day with seven catches and three TDs…pretty good for me.

Flag football

Birthday 2013

I had a nice birthday. After church and lunch, I played on our new Wii U with the family. NintendoLand is pretty fun. For supper, we ordered pizza. We got two vegan pizzas from ZPizza (using a voucher that we bought last year). Plus (for the non-vegans in the family), we picked up a couple of pizzas and lots of breadsticks from Little Caesars Pizza.

Josiah made me a drawing. Click on it to enlarge.

Happy Birthday from Josiah
Happy Birthday from Josiah

Backpacking In Sequoia National Park

This past weekend (September 28 – 30, 2012), I went on backpacking trip with one of my sons, Jason (age 21), and number of guys from church. Thursday afternoon, I picked up a rental car at near-by John Wayne Airport for the trip. Leaving work a little early, I picked up Jason after class at Orange Coast College. We got home and loaded up our stuff. After picking up another guy, we took off around 6 PM. Although traffic in L.A. was slow, we made it to Bakersfield for food and fuel around 8:30 PM.

Around 10:30 PM, we made to Visalia. Google Maps told us to take route 245 instead of the more popular route 198. Because I was confused with the map instructions, I stopped at a convenience store and asked for clarification. He recommended route 198. I knew that route 198 was undergoing construction but I figured that he knew what was happening.

Around 11 PM, we arrive at the entrance to Sequoia National Park. I know that we still have about 21 miles on route 198 to get to Lodgepole Campground. We see a flashing sign that says “ROAD CLOSED SUN-THUR 9PM-6AM” and “ONE PASS 11:30 PM.” So we knew that we had a shot at making it. At this point, route 198 is mostly switchbacks because we are rising several thousand feet in elevation. Frequently we’d see 15 MPH signs; sometimes 10 MPH. So I needed to drive slow to be safe, but I needed to drive fast to make the 11:30 PM pass.

Long story short, at 11:28 PM, we encounter the “ROAD CLOSED” barricade. At 11:33 PM, a construction guy shows up, moves the barricade, and motions us through. He rouses the driver of the other vehicle that was waiting. After both of our vehicles have passed, he drags the barricade back in place. Then he escorts us through the construction area. So we just barely made it. If we hadn’t, we would have had to do what another carload of guys had to do which was to camp on this side of the closure and then pass through in the morning.

Jason and I slept in the car overnight. I got a little chilly around 4:30 AM so I pulled my sleeping bag out of the trunk and climbed in.

Here’s Jason:

Here is how I slept:

Here’s the group ready to begin our hike.

We ended up splitting into several groups. Jason and I hiked up most of the way with Andrew and Phillip Stevens.

The Twin Lakes campsite had two bear boxes. We put all of our food into one of these metal containers at night.

Some campers at the ranger station said that Twin Lakes had five-star facilities. Here’s the reason why. (The alternative was to dig a hole and bury your waste.)

Here is a panoramic shot of the lake where we camped. Click on the photo to see a larger version.

Saturday afternoon, I hiked up to a spot several hundred feet above the lake. Here’s a photo from above.

We stopped to see General Sherman (the largest tree in the world by volume and weight). Here are two photos. Click on each photo to see it full size.

Here’s sunset at Twin Lakes.

Here’s a group photo prior to hiking out Sunday morning. I’m on the far left; Jason is third from the left. Click on the photo to see it full size.

Quest and Kelsey Shannan’s Wedding

Jeri and I traveled to Columbus, Ohio for the wedding of Kelsey Sulc and Quest Shannan.

We got a photo with the bride and groom.

After Quest and Kelsey’s Wedding at the Hunan Lion with Kevin, Bill, Noble, Mavis, Tim, Chance, Mary, Kirk, and MaryLou
Here we are with my sister, Mavis.