Are you in the market for a car in Arizona? If so, you might be considering a range of different options. There are used cars, available from both dealerships, private sellers and online auctions. There are program cars available. There are ex-fleet cars that might be worth your time. There are also salvage cars that might be worth your consideration.
However, before you head down this road, you need to know a few things, particularly about getting your salvage car retitled and insured in Arizona.
What Is a Salvage Car?
According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, “A salvage vehicle is a vehicle to be titled and registered that has been stolen, wrecked, destroyed by water or otherwise damaged to the extent that the insurance company considered it to be uneconomical to repair and was therefore issued a certificate of title branded/marked as salvage.”
There are a couple of key takeaways in that definition. The most important one is this: “damaged to the extent that the insurance company considered it uneconomical to repair”. The car might just have enough damage that the car’s value makes it not worth it for the insurance company to fix it. In fact, many salvage cars are only damaged up to about 70% of their total value.
For buyers, this means that there’s the chance to get a great car for far less than you’d pay anywhere else, and then repair it at little cost as well. If you’re mechanically inclined, you can even do the work yourself, or you can have a local body shop or mechanic help out.
There’s another takeaway from Arizona’s definition of a salvage car: “issued a certificate of title branded/marked as salvage”. That means the title isn’t “clean”. It’s a salvage title, and as such, it cannot be insured in the state of Arizona. That seems to throw a wrench in the works of buying such a vehicle and then getting salvage car insurance. However, there is a way out.
Obtaining a Restored Salvage Vehicle Title
In order to have your salvage car insured in Arizona, you’ll need to have the title changed. The DOT says: “A restored salvage vehicle is a vehicle that was previously issued a certificate of title branded as salvage, but has now been repaired/restored, then inspected for roadworthiness and issued a title branded as restored salvage.” So, you CAN get salvage car insurance in Arizona, but you need to take a few steps.
The first thing you’ll need to do is have the vehicle restored to what Arizona considers a “roadworthy” condition”. This will depend completely on the amount of damage done to the car. Some salvage vehicles require little more than body work to get back in legal operating condition, but yours may require a little more work.
This is one reason why it’s so important to thoroughly inspect salvage cars before making a purchase. While many can be restored for a reasonable amount of money, others are only suited to be parts cars. Ensuring that you’re able to insure a salvage vehicle really begins at the auction when you make the purchase.
Once you’ve had the repairs completed, there’s more work to be done. Arizona mandates several additional steps before you can get salvage car insurance.
After you’ve have the repairs conducted, you need to complete a title application. This is the necessary paperwork required to have your car re-licensed with a restored salvage title.
Next, you’ll need to have a Level III inspection conducted on your vehicle. This goes well beyond the basic inspections provided for customers about to go on a road trip, or even the lengthy checklists that used cars are subjected to when being purchased for sale at a dealership.
A Level III inspection is necessary “to verify all major component parts, which include front end assembly, engine, transmission as well as rear end assembly for trucks and truck-type vehicles”, according to the Arizona DOT. These inspection are only provided by certain specially certified mechanics in the state.
In order to have the inspection completed, you’ll need a few documents on hand. First, you’ll need proof of your ownership of the vehicle, such as your salvage title. Second, you’ll need your driver’s license. Third, you’ll need proof of repairs. This can be receipts for the repairs, parts and services required to get the vehicle roadworthy again.
Your receipts must be directly tied to the vehicle in question, and should contain the vehicle’s VIN, as well as a description of the parts removed/replaced, and where they came from (if they were sourced from a donor vehicle, you will need the VIN, as well as the make and model). You’ll also need contact information for the seller of the parts, the tax ID number of the seller, and your title number.
Before your vehicle can be retitled and you can be issued salvage car insurance, you’ll need to pass the emissions check (depending on the age of your vehicle, as not all vehicles are required to pass emissions testing). That means in addition to powertrain and body work, you may need to invest in exhaust and emissions system repairs.
Finally, you’ll need to surrender your salvage title in order to be issued a restored salvage title.
With this new title, you’ll be able to get salvage car insurance in Arizona, although you’ll need to consider the various insurers and what they’re willing to provide on a restored salvage vehicle. Some will only offer basic coverage, so choose your partner with care.
Insuring a salvage car in Arizona is not impossible, but it’s not necessarily a simple process. Follow the steps outlined above and you’ll definitely have an easier time of it, though.