What is Salvage title? US States Rebuilt Title Rules

How Do I Get a Salvage Car Back on the Road?

By Mike Richards Updated: 08/09/2022 Posted: 10/20/2015

Salvage cars are often available for a fraction of the price they would have been worth if they hadn’t been totaled, which makes them an incredibly attractive choice for anyone looking to save dollars on a new-to-you-used car. However, salvage cars may need a lot of work done before they’re going to be roadworthy again. Here’s what you might not know about getting a “cheap” salvage car back on the road.


Salvage Cars are Illegal to Drive

Any salvage car, in any state, is completely illegal to drive. That’s because these cars’ original title certificates change to “salvage title”. You can’t register or insure if it has a salvage title. Therefore can’t be driven even if it’s intact enough to be capable of being driven. What this means is that you’ll have to transport it on a flatbed to your garage after the auction.


Salvage Cars Need to Pass an Inspection

There’s more to getting a salvage car legally drivable again than just repairing the damage it sustained in the original accident. In addition to that, in most states, you’ll have to bring it into a state-sanctioned official inspection center. Usually, a facility set-up by the department of motor vehicles or a state police department – to go over your paperwork.

These inspections, when required by your state, will ask for different things depending on where you are in the country. At a bare minimum, you’ll need to fill out some forms, present your vehicle’s salvage title, and also present any bills of sale or receipts associated with the vehicle or any replacement parts you used in the rebuild.

The state police officer or DMV official may check the Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) on all this paperwork and then check to make sure they match the components and the vehicle itself. If everything checks out, you’re usually given a new title – rebuilt salvage. Which makes it eligible for registration and insurance.


Salvage Cars Can Be Problematic to Insure

No matter what state you live in, you’ll need a minimum amount of insurance on your rebuilt salvage car to get it on the road. This typically means personal liability and property damage insurance. This refers to PLPD cover. You can get PLPD coverage with little to no trouble for a rebuilt salvage car, but when it comes to more than just the bare minimum coverage for your vehicle, this is where you can run into problems.

The problem with a rebuilt salvage car is that there’s no guarantee as to the quality of the reconstruction. In many cases, the state-sanctioned inspection often touches on the legality of the rebuild, not its safety, which doesn’t help matters at all. This is simply too big of a risk to an insurer to provide high levels of coverage like collision, comprehensive, or any other physical damage coverage.

The best way around this is to submit to a second inspection. This time done by the insurer and done with an eye to determining how safe the car is to drive. An agent will examine the car inside and out, take copious notes, and then snap several photographs to document the condition of your vehicle. If everything checks out, your insurer will offer you higher insurance.

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