Buying a Car with a Salvage Title

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If you’re shopping around for a used car, you should definitely be checking the vehicle history reports.

One of the things that will show up on the vehicle history is the car’s title status and any title brands that it has been issued. 

Some major title statuses to look out for include:

  • Salvage title. 
  • Junk title. 
  • Rebuilt title.

Those title brands, or similar ones, indicate that the vehicle has experienced some major damages and has been declared a total loss at a point in its past. 

If you’re unfamiliar with any of those terms, you can learn more about some of those topics here:

So, as you’re shopping for a used car, you may stumble across one that’s listed well below market value. Chances are it may have a salvage title. Should you buy it? Learn more below. 

Should you buy a salvage title car? 

While the list price for a vehicle with a rebuilt salvage title may be attractive, there are some other things to consider. 

First, in many cases, a car that has had a salvage title has usually experienced some major damage. 

The definition of a salvage title in most states means that the car has been damaged to the point where the cost of repairs is more expensive or too expensive compared to the total value of the vehicle. 

Once a salvage title has been issued, the car cannot be registered, insured, or driven until the necessary repairs have been documented, completed, and inspected. 

After that process has been completed, the car can be issued a “rebuilt” title or rebuilt salvage title in order to be registered again. 

Unless you are fully aware of the prior damage and the repairs that have been made, it can be risky buying a salvage title car. 

Salvage title vehicles and rebuilt title vehicles have a greater potential to be hiding major safety flaws or poor repairs. 

These cars can also be prone to title washing, which is the practice of fraudsters transferring a salvage title to a different state with slightly different title status laws. 

Also be aware that getting insurance coverage for a salvage title car may be a little more difficult, and a little more expensive. 

When is it ok to buy a salvage title car?

However, not every salvage title car is a total dealbreaker. For example, salvage titles can be issued for situations such as:

  • Being reported stolen. 
  • Cosmetic damage. 
  • Hail damage. 

If you are able to gather all of the details about the damage and any repairs (with receipts), you’ll be better able to decide whether buying a salvage title car is a good idea. 

Alternatively, if you’re working on a car, a salvage title vehicle can make a good source for replacement parts. 

How to Buy a Salvage Title Car

If you are going to purchase a car with a rebuilt salvage title, be sure to do your homework first. 

Here are some tips to follow:

  • Use a VIN Decoder or License Plate Lookup to gather some basic details about the car
  • Order a Vehicle History Report to get the full details about the car’s past owner’s, accidents, sales, and odometer readings. 
  • Find a trusted mechanic to perform your own inspection on the vehicle. 
  • Make sure you’re getting the best price possible. Salvage title cars are typically worth 40% to 70% less than a comparable vehicle with a clean title status. 
  • Confirm that the necessary steps have been taken to get the vehicle registered again. 
  • Compare insurance quotes beforehand in order to get a good idea of how much coverage will cost.