What Is a Salvaged Title?

What Is a Salvaged Title? thumbnail
Buying a salvaged car can be tricky

Many people search for bargains--especially for high-dollar items such as automobiles. Used cars offer some seemingly good deals, but certain used vehicles, such as salvaged ones, may require extra caution and work.

  1. Definition of Salvaged

    • A salvaged vehicle is an automobile that has been been damaged so badly that it would cost more to repair the vehicle than it is worth. The title and license plates are returned to the state's Department of Motor Vehicles, which issues a salvage certificate. A salvaged car that has been restored is referred to as a revived salvage vehicle.

    Reasons for a Salvaged Title

    • A vehicle may be salvaged if it has been involved in a serious wreck, has been damaged in a flood or other disaster, has been seriously vandalized or has previously been dismantled or "junked".


    • To see whether a car has been salvaged, look at the title. By law, the title must state that a vehicle was salvaged, and salvages must be disclosed by all sellers, including dealerships. Vehicle history reports, such as Carfax, also will verify whether a car has been salvaged.

    Registering a Salvaged Title

    • Registering a previously salvaged vehicle typically requires the following: a completed registration application with applicable fees, a salvage certificate or bill of sale to prove ownership, a vehicle inspection, a brake and light inspection certificate and a smog certification (in some states).


    • It is important to verify that a salvaged vehicle has been properly restored before purchase. According to the California Department of Consumer Affairs, more than 150,000 salvaged vehicles return to the road each year without the proper safety inspections, posing potential threats to drivers, passengers and other motorists.

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