US States Rebuilt Title Rules

Can I Buy a Flooded Car and Then Fix it to Obtain a Title in Pennsylvania?

By Mike Richards Posted: 08/29/2017

Pennsylvania is home to a thriving used car market, with numerous appealing options available to motivated buyers and sellers.

To those who can’t afford full price on a used car, or who don’t wish to finance a vehicle, there’s another option: salvage and flooded vehicles. These cars won’t go for full price, but they’re also often available at a steep discount. If you’re intelligent with your purchases, understand the law, and know a little bit about what buyers are seeking, you can score an amazing deal on a flooded Pennsylvania vehicle, fix it up, then resell it for a tidy profit.

Flooded Cars: What You Need to Know

One of the problems with flooded cars is that many sellers don’t make it clear that they’re selling flooded cars. A number of illegal schemes can obscure a car’s status as a flooded car, which means that every used car is suspect. Before purchasing any car, whether labeled a flooded car or not, you must demand a vehicle history report.

So what’s so wrong with flooded cars? They pose a number of concerns. You can’t determine whether the car is safe to drive or in good condition based solely on its appearance. That’s because it only takes a few inches of water to flood a car, so a car can be cosmetically perfect, but still severely damaged. The seats might be molded, the under carriage could be rusted, and the engine could be flooded and fully destroyed. Don’t blindly trust a seller about any car’s condition. The only person who can tell you for sure is a skilled mechanic.

Salvage Title Flooded Cars in Pennsylvania

When a car has been flooded, or when the cost of repairing damage to the vehicle exceeds 75% of the vehicle’s value, the car is assigned a salvage certificate. This certificate indicates that it is a total loss to the insurance company, and that it needs significant repairs to be road ready. Pennsylvania doesn’t offer a separate title to flooded cars, but it will note on the salvage certificate that the car has been damaged by a flood. Once a car receives this designation, this note remains on the title, even if you register it in another state or pursue a new title.  

Pennsylvania Salvage Vehicle Regulations

When a car in Pennsylvania receives a salvage certificate, it cannot be driven until has been substantially repaired. If you purchase and fix up a Pennsylvania flooded vehicle, you can apply for a salvage title. A salvage title makes the car legal to drive on the road again. You’ll need to provide details about all changes made to the car, including receipts for parts and repairs. You’ll also need to provide a copy of the original salvage certificate, and submit the car for an inspection.

Not all repaired salvage cars will be eligible for a salvage title, so choose the car you purchase carefully, and know what you’re getting into before you buy.

Note that a salvage title is the only title a salvage car is eligible for. You will not be able to get a clean title, and the flooded vehicle designation will remain with the car, permanently reducing its potential resale value.

Fixing Up Salvage Cars in Pennsylvania

You’ll already need to fix up a car significantly to apply for a salvage title, but you can repair it even further if you so desire. This won’t, however, make the car eligible for another title, so you should do so only if you believe that repairing the car will increase its value.

Salvage titles don’t consider the car’s cosmetic status, so one possibility is to perform cosmetic repairs beyond those demanded by Pennsylvania law. This can make the car more attractive to potential buyers, potentially those who want a like-new car, but who do not want to pay like-new prices.

Before you repair a car beyond the repairs Pennsylvania law requires, make sure you work with a mechanic who can help you weigh the costs of repairs against the potential resale value of the car.

Tips for Making a Profit Off of Pennsylvania Flooded Cars

If you’re new to the business of buying and selling flooded cars, tread carefully. You won’t make a profit on every car you sell. So keep your eye on the long-term future of your business, not just making an immediate quick buck. The following tips can help you maximize your chances of success:

  • Seek a dealer license so that you can attend dealer auctions, which tend to offer the best cars and most competitive prices.
  • Get involved in your local dealer community. Though these dealers may be your competitors, they are also your colleagues, and can help you network and learn.
  • Partner with a mechanic who can help you evaluate cars before you purchase them.
  • Know the car market, and in particular, know which cars are in demand.
  • Always get a title report and vehicle history report. Never trust the word of a seller.
  • Never engage in title washing—the illegal and immoral practice of trying to hide a car’s salvage or flood status.
  • Expand your search for buyers online.
  • Learn as much as you can about cars, so that you can become an intelligent consumer who knows which cars and products are most valuable.

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