What is Salvage title? US States Rebuilt Title Rules

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

By Mike Richards Updated: 05/23/2019 Posted: 08/18/2017

Floods destroy cars, often in a matter of seconds. Kentucky’s volatile weather patterns—which include tornadoes, storms, flash floods, and hail—mean that many cars flood every year. What was once destroyed can be made new again. If you have any evidence, just look for the many flooded cars on the Kentucky salvage vehicle market. But is it a wise idea to buy a flooded car and then fix it? Only if you know what you’re getting into. Here’s how to make a decision that helps you make a profit.

Concerns About Flooded Cars in Kentucky

Even just a few inches of water can destroy a car. One of the primary concerns with buying flooded cars is that these vehicles can appear outwardly fine, but may have extensive internal damage that makes them essentially undriveable lemons. Some of the most common effects of flood exposure in cars include:

  • Rust along the outside or inside of the car, including hidden rust to seatbelts, steering wheels, and other vital components.
  • Damage to the engine that may be irreversible, and not easily detected.
  • Problems with fuel-related components of the car that make the car unable to move, or that wreck its fuel efficiency.
  • Damage to the frame of the vehicle, or extensive irreparable cosmetic damage due to hail.

This means that flooded vehicles are always a question mark without a vehicle history report. You can’t rely on the external appearance of the car, and you certainly cannot rely on the blind assurances of a dealer, who has a vested interest in selling the car. With careful planning and a little knowledge you can sell a Kentucky flooded car, but you should not expect to get a large return.

Cautions About Cars from Other States

Because flooded vehicles sell for below market value, some unscrupulous sellers attempt to obscure the fact that a Kentucky car has been previously flooded. Driving a car to another state and registering it there, then seeking a title in Kentucky, is one way to do this.

This strategy, called title washing, is illegal and dangerous, potentially exposing perpetrators to civil and criminal penalties.

The prevalence of title washing means that all purchasers of used and salvage cars should tread carefully. Even used cars can have washed titles, so ask for a vehicle history report no matter where the car came from.

Kentucky Salvage Vehicles

In Kentucky, when a car has been so severely damaged that repairing it will eat up at least 75% of the car’s value, it is declared a total loss by the insurance company. Cars that have been totaled cannot be driven without a salvage title. A salvage title denotes a car that has been previously totaled, and serves as a warning to consumers.

Kentucky has a special classification of salvage titles that have been flooded or otherwise damaged by water. Known as a salvage-water damage vehicle, these titles clearly disclose a car’s history, protecting consumers from potentially dangerous vehicles.

Once a car has been branded a salvage vehicle, it’s impossible for that history to be obscured. The car’s title history and its vehicle report will clearly reflect its history as a salvage vehicle, permanently driving down its potential value.

Kentucky Rebuilt Title Vehicles

Sellers who wish to earn a profit off of flooded cars should consider rebuilding all or a portion of the car. These rebuilt salvage vehicles can command a significantly higher price than they sold for, particularly if the car is otherwise of a high value.

Owners who rebuild the car can apply for a rebuilt title. To earn such a title, you must prove that the car has been rebuilt by offering a list of replace parts, receipts for repairs, and other information. Not every repaired Kentucky flooded car will qualify for a rebuilt title, but those that do may fetch a higher price on the open market.

Selling a Flooded Kentucky Car With a Rebuilt or Salvage Title

It’s possible to sell and even profit from, a flooded car with a rebuilt title. The following tips can help you maximize your profits:

  • Seek a vehicle history report on each and every car you buy, since this is the only way to verify dealer claims. Cars with extensive salvage histories or extensive damage may not be worth buying. Be prepared to offer would-be buyers copies of this report.
  • Only purchase cars of a relatively high value that are likely to sell for a profit. Collector’s items, pricey cars, and vehicles no longer available in the used or new market are ideal choices.
  • Research each car you buy to ensure that it’s likely to earn you a tidy profit.
  • Form a relationship with a mechanic you trust who can inspect any and all cars you plan to buy.
  • Get involved in your local salvage car community, and befriend other dealers.
  • Attend dealer auctions and seek a dealer license, since these auctions usually offer the highest quality vehicles.
  • Apply for a rebuilt title, rather than just trying to sell a rebuilt car with a salvage title.
  • Provide would-be buyers with details about any and all repairs made to the car.
  • Fix cosmetic damage to the car, even if the title rebuilding process does not require you to do so. Attractive cars almost always sell for more.