What is a Salvage Title And Why It Matters


Published : July 19, 2022
Junk old RV
Image source: pexels

If you’ve been shopping for a used vehicle from a private seller or a third-party dealer, you might have run into vehicles with “salvage” titles. Usually, these vehicles are available for a reasonable price. So you may wonder what salvage is titis and whether you should purchase a vehicle with a salvage title.

In this article, we’ll discuss salvage titles, the benefits, and drawbacks of purchasing a vehicle with a salvage label, and much more regarding why it matters so that your decision is made wisely.

What Does a Salvage Title Mean?

Salvage old Car

A salvage title vehicle (also known as a junker) was already extensively damaged in an accident and is usually “totaled.”

If an insurance company decides that repairing a wrecked car is too expensive, they can give the owner a salvage title instead. It means the vehicle has been declared a total loss and cannot be sold again.

Private owners may also get a salvage title even if they repair cars that have been totaled. Either way, a salvage vehicle is marked as such, regardless of how much work it needs.

How Does a Car or RV Become Salvage Title?

Old and broken car abandoned
Image source: pexels

Before purchasing a salvage title vehicle (car, motorhome, motorcycle, etc.), ensure you understand what you’re buying. A salvage title vehicle has been damaged beyond its market value and deemed a total loss by an insurance company, so it may not be worth your money.

In addition, a vehicle could be considered salvaged because it was stolen and never found by law enforcement. These reasons should give you pause before investing.

On the other hand, if you have a salvaged RV on your hands and selling it gives you a lot of trouble, you can directly sell your salvaged title RV to us and get rid of it from your yard at a fair price.

Here are some common causes of a vehicle becoming salvaged. 

1. Major accidents 

If you were in an accident and your vehicle was deemed a total loss by the insurer, you can keep it and have it repaired. However, the insurer will declare the vehicle salvage if the damage exceeds what the policy covers. Salvage vehicles are generally used for parts so that they might be sold off cheaply.

Even a new vehicle could be turned into a salvage after a severe accident. If the insurance company does not believe fixing the car is worthwhile, somebody else might be prepared to take on the task. Once an insurance carrier states it is not worth repairing, it will be issued a salvage title regardless of whether you’ve got the fixes.

If you want to repair the car or motorhome, you’ll need to pass an inspection first. Then, you can submit proof of purchase for all the parts used to fix the vehicle. Once approved, you’ll receive a new salvage title.

2. Natural Disasters

Flooding is one of the reasons why a vehicle might receive a salvage title. Often, the damage is not noticeable to buyers. This is because the water dries out and leaves no trace behind. However, the mechanics and electronics inside a vehicle can be severely affected, causing the car or RV to malfunction.

Dealers in flood zones risk losing every part of their inventory due to flooding and hurricanes. Many people also have to deal with flooded cars, too. Insurers will pay for flood damage if comprehensive coverage is chosen.

Additional Reasons for a Vehicle to be Salvaged

It’s not just major accidents or natural disasters that can cause vehicles to be titled as salvage; here are some common reasons why many people end up dealing with salvage titles:

·   Kit cars:  A salvaged title on a kit car means that it was not inspected properly before being sold.

·   Restored antiques: The seller should possess a title if an antique has been correctly restored. If it’s a salvage title, you might need to take further measures to restore it (and keep the receipt for any components you utilize).

·   Stolen vehicle returned to rightful owners: There may not be any problems with the vehicle, but the owner should have gotten a new title before selling it. That means doing your homework before buying.

·   Major car repairs using aftermarket parts: A vehicle can often be fixed if you know what you’re doing. For illustration, if your vehicle breaks down and you notice something wrong with the engine, you may be able to fix it yourself. However, if you’ve got a problem with the transmission, brakes, suspension, steering, or any other part, you’ll most likely need to take it to a professional. In either case, ensure you get a detailed inspection before working on the vehicle.

Top Challenges of Salvage Title Vehicles

Most financial institutions will not issue automobile loans for salvage title automobiles because the car is often utilized as security for the loan. In addition, a salvaged vehicle supplies too much danger for most financial institutions, given that if you default on your automotive loan, the salvaged vehicle has little worth. 

Therefore, before you buy a salvage vehicle, be ready to spend mainly cash. Here are some of the most common challenges of salvaged vehicle titles.

·   Safety concerns: Safety is the leading reason many consumers avoid buying salvaged vehicles. Many car dealerships that sell rebuilt cars cut costs by cutting corners. For example, many auto re-builders will skip structural alignment and airbags. This poses a significant danger to drivers and their passengers, so don’t take unnecessary risks just because you can get a cheap deal. Don’t risk your safety for a bargain price.

·   Hard to insure: Salvage title means the car was previously under another name. To insure a salvage title vehicle, the owner must provide proof that they own it.

·   No resale value: Salvage-title vehicles are difficult to sell. Dealerships seldom accept salvaged vehicles as trade-ins, so selling the vehicle on your own may be just as difficult. In addition, because salvage vehicles cannot be priced accurately using online resources, it can be hard to convince dealerships and potential buyers of a fair price.

·   No Warranty: Most cars come with warranties, but you won’t get one if your vehicle comes with a salvage title. You’ll be responsible for any repairs after leaving the lot. Salvage titles often aren’t disclosed to customers, so you might pay for expensive repairs without knowing about them.

·   High instances of fraud: Most car dealerships and independent sellers will tell buyers the vehicle has minor damages. However, it is hard to determine whether the dealer is being truthful. Also, there is nothing a buyer can do if they discover that the dealership or independent owner lied about the extent of the damages after purchasing the vehicle. Fortunately, there is no legal recourse a buyer can pursue because there is no warranty or guarantee on the vehicle’s condition.

How Do Salvage Titles Work?

When a vehicle has had its value reduced due to damage, either because it was involved in an accident or stolen, it may be eligible for a salvage title. In such cases, the person who owns the vehicle must decide whether they wish to keep it or sell it.

If the owner chooses not to keep a totaled vehicle or does not have insurance coverage, they are most likely liable for any damages caused during an accident. If the insurance company decides to repossess a damaged vehicle after declaring the car a total loss, the insurer will file for a salvage title.

Salvage titles can only be acquired through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). To obtain one, you must fill out an application, pay any applicable fees, and submit your car to a salvage vehicle inspection. Once the inspection is complete, the DMV in your state will issue you a title.

You should also take copies of your vehicle registration papers, proof of ownership if you bought the car privately, and driver’s license. In addition, you’ll probably need a checkbook, credit cards, and cash.

The Pros and Cons of Salvage Title Vehicles

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Here are a few things to consider before purchasing a salvage title vehicle.


  • The car may be damaged but still worth something. A wrecked vehicle may not necessarily be unusable and may often be repaired if it is in relatively good shape. However, salvage vehicles are generally in poor condition and are rarely used. For example, junk RVs are sold for cash, parts, or scrap metal. Nevertheless, you can make good money out of them.

Salvage title cars have some advantages, but they also have disadvantages that we should discuss.


  • Insurance can be a huge headache. Most insurance companies are hesitant about insuring rebuilt cars because they’re unsure whether the vehicle was damaged in another accident before being repaired. If your vehicle gets into an accident after being repaired, it’s problematic to discover how much damage was caused by the original accident versus other accidents.
  • You may spend more on insurance premiums than on repairs after an accident. However, you can save money by choosing not to purchase comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive coverage covers damage to your vehicle caused by third parties (like another driver), whereas liability coverage only protects against damage to your vehicle. Liability coverage also typically comes with lower rates.
  • Repairs are costly if you do them yourself. For example, salvage cars often have problems that weren’t caught before purchase. You might find out about these problems later, and they could cost you thousands of dollars. In addition, repairs may take longer than expected so you may lose your initial investment.
  • Salvage cars aren’t worth very much and cost a lot to repair. In addition, a salvaged vehicle can lose its value because it doesn’t meet safety standards or was involved in an accident. You might also discover that your car needs expensive repairs before it becomes roadworthy again. If you’d rather keep your car, then make sure you get a clean title so you can sell it later.

Salvage Title Vehicles and Insurance: What You Need to Know

If you have a vehicle with an expired registration, you may not be able to insure it. In addition, if you’re driving a vehicle previously registered in another country, you may also be unable to obtain insurance coverage. Therefore, you should check with your current insurance provider before attempting to purchase new insurance.

Some insurance companies may offer you basic liability coverage for an older car that’s been rebuilt or repaired, while others won’t. Depending on your state, you might need to purchase a separate rebuilt or repaired vehicle title that certifies your vehicle’s safety before you’re allowed to drive it on public streets.

If you’re shopping around for insurance, check out what each company charges for the same basic policy. Depending on your state, you’ll probably find that one company offers better rates than another. And if you decide to go with a higher deductible, you may save money overall because you won’t have to pay so much cash upfront.

Salvage Title FAQs

Should you buy a vehicle with a salvage title?

Most salvage vehicles aren’t junked because they’ve got bad titles; they’re junked because they’re worn out. Even the best RV brands and models get tired, broken, and unusable. In addition, most salvage vehicles aren’t very reliable, so they won’t last long once they’re repaired. But, if you’re an experienced mechanic or know someone who knows how to fix things well, then salvaged vehicles can be a good deal.

How can you tell between a clean title and a salvage one?

Buying and selling vehicles requires knowledge about all the paperwork, including the vehicle title, one of the main documents in vehicle ownership.

A title is an official document proving you own the vehicle. When you buy a car, you receive the title from the DMV. When you sell a vehicle, you sign the title. Titles are issued for trucks, motorcycles, RVs, and motorized boats.

A car title documents a vehicle’s current and past ownership rights. In addition, the most recent title will contain the current owner’s contact information, vehicle identification number (VIN), liens, and more.

Salvage title vs. rebuilt title: what is the difference?

A salvage title is used when the cost of repairing a vehicle exceeds its market value. When an insurer deems a vehicle a total loss, they often write off the entire amount owed on the vehicle. However, in cases where the vehicle is deemed too expensive to repair, the insurer may assign the vehicle a salvage title. Salvage titles can also be issued if a vehicle is damaged beyond repair after being involved in an accident. These vehicles are unsafe and should not be driven until repairs are made.

A vehicle with an invalid title may be repaired and reissued as a new one. To obtain a rebuilt title, the car must meet certain safety standards. Some states require the vehicle to undergo a series of inspections before receiving a rebuilt title. Other states do not require such inspections.

How much does the salvage title reduce the value of a vehicle?

Generally, you can expect a salvaged vehicle to lose between twenty percent (20%) and forty percent (40%) of its original value. As a result, salvage titles are often used to sell vehicles cheaply because they’re generally considered junk. However, if your vehicle runs fine, it may increase in value.

How to get a salvage title cleared?

You can get a salvage title car without washing off any titles. If you’re buying a used vehicle, you may not even know what kind of title it had until after you’ve bought it. Salvage title vehicles aren’t necessarily bad, but they have certain restrictions. 

The rules are fairly uniform across the country. Once a vehicle’s original title has been marked as salvage, it cannot ever be returned to its previous condition. However, most states can recondition the title as “rebuilt” or “remanufactured.” To do so requires repairing the vehicle and submitting it to the Department of Transportation (DOT) for inspection. If the DOT approves the repairs, they will issue a rebuilt title.

In a sense, the salvage can be removed and replaced with a new title – but only technically. Anybody who knows anything about vehicle registration will know from the word “salvage,” which means it was previously branded as salvage. That also includes all insurance companies and any potential buyers. 

What should you do with a salvage title vehicle?

Salvage vehicles were damaged beyond repair and are sold for parts. They may not meet safety standards or emissions requirements and often require extensive repairs before being driven again. However, if you get one, you might be able to sell it for a profit. On the other hand, if you want to sell your salvaged title Rv or used motorhome, you can bank on us for a fast and fair estimate and even free removal if you are in California or the neighboring states.


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