A salvage vehicle title is a title with a notation indicating that the vehicle has been damaged beyond a certain percentage of its pre-damage value, typically more than 50 percent (depending on the jurisdiction). Salvage title vehicles are cheaper than clean title vehicles, but are difficult to insure and generally cannot be registered or driven on public roads without “clean” title. However, a buyer who rebuilds a damaged salvage title vehicle can have clean title restored.
1. Obtain the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and run an online vehicle history report to confirm its salvage title status. Your car’s VIN contains 17 characters (unless it is from the early 1980s or older), and its location on your car varies by make and model. It may be found on the dashboard, the door frame, the steering wheel, the steering column, the left-hand inner wheel arch, the firewall, the radiator support bracket, or on the engine.
2. Inspect the vehicle for damage and calculate the cost of repairs. If the cost of repairs exceeds the discount you are being offered due to its salvage title status, it is probably not worth buying.
3. Repair the vehicle. Keep all receipts for parts you buy to prove that you own them.
4. Check your state’s Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website for an application for salvage vehicle inspection. Most states require this to have the vehicle officially inspected. Download and print the form, and complete it.
5. Take the application for salvage vehicle inspection, bills of sale or titles for any parts you purchased, and your rebuilt vehicle to an authorized salvage inspector (a list should be provided on the DMV website). The inspector will examine your car and issue an inspection report.
6. Bring your vehicle’s title, the application for salvage vehicle title, and the inspection report to the state office that issues rebuilt titles (the address of this office should be available on your state’s DMV website). You will have to fill out an application for rebuilt title. The office will issue a rebuilt title and register your vehicle for a nominal fee.