Buying a Salvage Title Car: Things You Need To Know

When buying a used car, you want to get a vehicle that is safe to drive and does not have hidden problems. Make sure to research its history to find out all important details about the car, including information on title status, such as whether a salvage title was issued. You can use a free VIN check or a free license plate lookup service and pull out a vehicle history report to check if the car was declared as salvage.

Pros and Cons of Buying a Salvage Title Car

buying a salvage title car
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What does salvage title mean?

A car’s title is a label that describes the condition of the car, whether it is clean or a vehicle has been written off due to collision, fire or flood damage or has been sold for scrap.

What is a salvage title?

A car gets a salvage title when it has been damaged and branded as a total loss by the insurance company. For a vehicle to be considered as salvage, the extent of damage and cost of repairs must be equivalent to 75 % or higher than the car’s resale value. Each state and insurer has different criteria for declaring a salvaged vehicle, so the amount varies.

There are many reasons a vehicle can be totaled and a salvage title is issued, such as:

  • Collision – When a vehicle is involved in a major accident and has suffered extensive damage to the car’s critical parts
  • Flood damage – If the car was submerged in a flood, the water can severely damage the engine and electrical components of a car
  • Fire damage – If the vehicle was damaged by a fire
  • Natural disaster – The vehicle can sustain major damage from severe weather events, like hails storms and tornadoes
  • Stolen vehicles – If the car was recovered after being stolen for some time.

How to get a salvage title cleared?

If you’re considering buying a salvage title car, it’s important to get a vehicle history report and have the car inspected by a trusted mechanic to check its condition. To get a salvage title cleared, you need to have your vehicle fixed and submit it for inspection at your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If the vehicle passes the inspection, the salvage title will be removed and a new title will be issued. The vehicle can now be registered with a “rebuilt title” and the salvage title on the vehicle will be cleared.

Can you drive a car with salvage title?

A car with a salvage title is considered unsafe to drive on public roads. In some states, you might not even be allowed to purchase the salvage car in the first place. However, once the car is completely repaired and it qualifies for a rebuilt title, it indicates that the vehicle is roadworthy and you will be able to register it and legally drive your car.

Can you get insurance on a salvage title?

If you’re looking for a used car with a reasonable price, a vehicle with a salvage title can be a good option. Salvage title cars are often sold for as low as 20-40% less of the cost than used cars with clean titles. But, you may find it difficult to get insurance on a car with a salvage title since it’s hard to place value on the vehicle.

Very few insurance companies are willing to insure a salvage title car, especially for a collision or comprehensive coverage. They may only offer limited coverage to as much as 80% of the car’s market value. If an insurance company does decide to cover your car with a salvage title, the premiums you pay could be pricey.

Salvage Title vs Rebuilt Title

Two of the most common types of branded titles found on used vehicle titles are “salvage title” and “rebuilt title.” Here are the differences between the two:

Salvage Title Cars

A salvage title is issued to any vehicle damaged beyond 75% of its overall value and has been deemed totaled by an insurance company. You can’ drive a salvage car on public roadways. The vehicle could be restored to a factory-new condition, but it is still a salvage car.

Rebuilt Title Cars

A rebuilt title is issued to a vehicle that was previously branded as salvage but has been repaired. It has to pass a safety inspection by the DMV to get a rebuilt title. Cars with rebuilt titles can be insured, but it may be hard to find an insurance company that will cover it. You will be able to register and drive a car with a rebuilt title.

Jasper has been an enthusiast of the automotive and IT industries since the age of 16. He independently writes on the auto industry's recent happenings.