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Tips on Finding the Perfect Salvage Car to Restore

By Mike Richards Updated: 07/04/2022 Posted: 10/19/2015

Salvage cars are many times overlooked by those looking for cheap vehicles. For the hobbyist or for the used-car dealership owner, salvage cars represent a fantastic opportunity to purchase a vehicle that can be repaired, made road-worthy once again, and even re-sold at a profit.

However, not every salvage car is created equal. You’ll need to learn how to find the perfect one for your needs. Here are some quick tips for accomplishing just that.

You Have to Do Your Research

Just because a vehicle has a “salvage car” title doesn’t mean that it necessarily sustained severe damage. There are a number of things that could happen to an older car that would necessitate a “salvage” designation, and not all of them involve physical damage.

In many states, a vehicle that’s seen long and meritorious service is a former police patrol car or a taxicab. Is a salvage title vehicle upon sale. A car with 60 percent to 75 percent damage is written off, even though the car isn’t completely “totaled.”

This means that the responsibility is yours to discover what the history of a salvage car is if you want to ensure you’re buying one that won’t be more costly than it’s worth to recondition for roadworthiness.

The best resources for buying salvage vehicles is the public used car auction. Or an online used car auction site. Pay special attention to the published list of salvage cars scheduled for the next auction.

If the salvage car’s Vehicle Identification Number is listed, it’s a good idea to run that VIN against a car information database like Carfax to learn more about the particulars of a salvage car. This is sometimes easier to accomplish if the published list is available online, or if the online auction site you’re using lists this information on the bidding page for an individual vehicle.


Do Your Bidding

Once you’ve found a few salvage cars that look like fine candidates, you’ve got to work out a bidding strategy for these cars. If you’re attending a public auction in person, you’ll need to deal with bidding in the crowd of other prospective car buyers, something that can be a harrowing experience for even those with plenty of years of buying cars at auction.

In many ways, this makes online car auction sites a better option, as there are no hectic, chaotic and intense situations that you’ll have to weather – and the possibility of making a mistake or missing a bidding opportunity is reduced as well.


Getting Your Salvage Car off the Lot

If you’re lucky – or you’ve planned well – and you’ve managed to win a salvage car. You’ve got to get it home somehow. Salvage cars are illegal to drive. Transport them, either via flatbed or by covered trailer. In many states, it’s illegal to even have a salvage vehicle towed if it’s still got its front or rear wheels in contact with the road.

The good news is that almost every used car auction – both in-person and online.  Has shipping and transportation services for an additional fee.

The shipping and transport fees are competitive.

Salvage cars are cheap. Leave room in your budget to get your salvage car to where it needs to be. Whether it’s an auto body shop or the garage of your used car dealership. Or just your driveway where you plan to do the restoration work yourself.

Explore our Vehicle Auctions, as well as finding more information about How These Auctions Work.