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Auction Tips

What is a Salvage Title? 

Regina Minton
Auto Blogger
Last Updated 17.07.23

A salvage title can be described as a unique marker that an insurance company gives to a car. However, why does a vehicle earn this ‘badge’? It’s pretty simple! When a car is involved in an accident and sustains serious damages, fixing such a can be very expensive than the car’s actual worth. In this scenario, the insurance company decides to call it a “total loss.”

Furthermore, instead of fixing it, the insurer will pay out the value of the car and take ownership of the damaged vehicle. The car is then issued a salvage title. Surprisingly, this may be a second chance for the car! In fact, a salvage title car can potentially be repaired and put back on the road. But remember, a car with a salvage title has its history written all over it. While there could be some great deals, it’s essential to know what you’re getting into when you’re thinking of buying one.

What Restrictions Does The Salvage Title Impose?

When you’re dealing with a car that has a salvage title, there are a few restrictions that you should be aware of. Let’s break it down.

Getting Insurance Policy is Difficult

First off, it’s tough to get an insurance policy for a salvage title car. Many insurance companies are hesitant because it’s a gamble on their end. These cars were once deemed a ‘total loss,’ and the risk of future issues is quite high.

No Resale Value

The second hurdle is the resale value. Selling a car with a salvage title can be tricky. Potential buyers may be concerned about the possible issues tied to the vehicle’s history. Nonetheless, it’s not all doom and gloom. 

Once a salvage title car is repaired and passes a thorough inspection, it can be rebranded as a ‘rebuilt title.’ Thus, opening a few more doors for the vehicle! But remember, even then, you may face limitations with insurance and resale value. For this reason, make sure you know what you’re signing up for when dealing with a salvage or rebuilt title.

What Are The Possible Perks Of Buying A Salvage Vehicle?

Let’s talk about the possible silver linings of buying a salvage title car. They can have their own unique set of perks!


First off, the most noticeable perk is the price. Salvage title cars can often be purchased for a significantly lower cost than their ‘clean’ counterparts. If you’re a bargain hunter, or if you’ve got a tight budget, you can save cost by buying a salvage title car.

Budget-Friendly DIY Project

Furthermore, if you’re the do-it-yourself (DIY) type or you know a reliable mechanic, you can turn a salvage title car into a cost-effective project. Though, the vehicle has a brutal past. Nonetheless, with some tender loving care (TLC), it could be your next treasure. In addition, you get to know your car’s history inside out. This might be a real advantage.

Perfect Secondary Car

What’s more, for some car buyers, a salvaged vehicle can make a perfect secondary car. Think about it! If you need a car just for errands or short trips, a salvage title car can fit the bill. The vehicle gets the job done without worrying about putting miles or wear and tear on your primary car.

Unique Sense of Satisfaction

Lastly, while this may not apply to everyone, buying a salvage title car can offer a unique sense of satisfaction. Some vehicle owners enjoy the challenge of restoring a car and the pride of giving it a new title. Remember, a salvage title isn’t a junk title – with a bit of work. Thus, a previously owned car can be a diamond in the rough.

However, it is important to keep in mind to avoid ‘title washing’ and always secure a full report of the car’s history before you buy. It’s all about making an informed decision.

Can You Register and Drive A Car With A Salvage Title?

You’ve got a salvage title car and wanted to know if you can register and drive it. In most states, cars with a salvage title can’t be driven on public roads until they’re rebuilt, inspected, and given a new “rebuilt” title.

Remember, the car received a salvage title because it was in an accident and suffered serious damage. Hence, the vehicle needs to meet all safety standards before it hits the road again. Also, don’t forget about car insurance. You’ll need a policy that covers salvage titles.

What to Consider When Buying a Car with a Salvage Title?

Are you thinking about buying a car with a salvage title? Here are some crucial things to consider:

Vehicle History and Damage Assessment

Knowing a vehicle’s past is crucial, especially when dealing with salvage title cars. The key here is to get a complete vehicle history report. This way, you can find out why it got a salvage title in the first place. Was it an accident, flood, or maybe even theft recovery? Knowing the type of damage can help you assess the potential cost and complexity of repairs. Also, getting a professional inspection can give you a more detailed picture of the vehicle’s condition. You don’t want any nasty surprises down the road!

Financing and Insurance Considerations

However, it’s worth noting that most traditional lending institutions may hesitate to finance a salvage title vehicle due to its history. As a result, you might have to explore other options or pay cash upfront. While some insurance companies might offer liability coverage for salvage vehicles, getting comprehensive coverage can be a bit of a challenge. It’s best to check with your insurance company ahead of time to know what you’re getting into.

Safety and Roadworthiness

Safety first! A salvage title indicates that the car had suffered some serious damage in the past. For this reason, you need to be sure it’s safe to drive now. After repairs, most states require a salvage vehicle to pass a safety inspection before it’s given a rebuilt title and deemed roadworthy. Keep in mind that not all repairs are equal. Ensure the repairs are up to standard to avoid compromising your safety.

Cost Analysis

Lastly, while a salvage title car might come at a lower upfront cost, you need to factor in potential repair costs, insurance difficulties, and lower resale value. Is it really worth the savings? Sometimes, spending a bit more on a vehicle with a clean title could save you money and hassle in the long run.

Key Takeaways

Here’s a little summary of what we’ve discussed:

A salvage title car has a past marked by significant damage, earning it a special status from the insurance company. When considering such a vehicle, the first step is understanding its history and assessing the damage.

In addition, financing and insurance can be more challenging for these cars. Hence, always check with your potential lender and insurance company in advance. Moreover, safety is paramount. Thus, ensure the vehicle has passed required inspections and meets roadworthy standards after repairs.

Finally, do a thorough cost analysis – factor in potential repair costs, insurance difficulties, and lower resale value. Remember, a lower upfront cost doesn’t always mean a salvage title car is a bargain. Happy car shopping, and stay informed!


How do I check if I can drive a salvage title car in my state?

To check if you can drive a salvage title car in your state, visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website or office. They’ll provide specific rules and regulations for salvage vehicles in your area.

What does salvage greater than 75 mean?

“Salvage greater than 75” means that the cost to repair the car is more than 75% of its pre-accident value. In this case, the insurance company often deems the car a total loss and issues a salvage title.

How long does it take to register a salvage car?

The time to register a salvage car varies by state. After passing inspections and meeting all requirements, it typically takes a few weeks to receive your new “rebuilt” title and registration. Always consult your local DMV for specifics.

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