Salvage Car Repair
Salvage Cars

How To Legally Restore a Salvage Car in Three Easy Steps 

By Mike Richards Updated: 07/30/2017 Posted: 10/19/2015

Restoring a salvage car to drivable condition entails much more than time and hard work. The entire process requires an attention to detail in more than just an automotive sense. To that end, here are three easy, yet easily overlooked, steps that you need to take when you’re working on restoring a salvage car.

Know How the Laws Work in Your State

The laws governing salvage cars differ from one state to another. You’ll need to ensure you know what types of rules and regulations you’ll need to comply with before you restore a salvage car.

A good example of this is how the cost threshold for declaring a car totaled can differ from state to state. In most jurisdictions, the amount of damage a car has to incur before being eligible for salvage status is usually somewhere between 75 percent and 90 percent. Any more than that, and most states will declare a car unrepairable; any less than that, and the state won’t allow an insurer to write off the damage.

However, there are more than a few states that set the write-off threshold at just 60 percent. What this means for you is that if you buy a salvage car from one of these states, the damage you will have to repair to make the car roadworthy may be much less extensive than you anticipated. However, the reverse is also true if you live in a state with a much higher threshold.

Keep Every Scrap of Documentation

Once you’ve gotten your salvage car repaired, you’re most likely going to need to pass a state-mandated inspection in order to be able to get it registered legally once more. Part of this process will involve filling out extensive paperwork that will require you to show documentation of the original purchase of your salvage car as well as receipts or bills of sale for any major components replaced as you rebuilt your car to drivable condition.

This means that you’ll have to keep every scrap of documentation you have on your salvage car, as well as any documents generated during the restoration work. In some states, you even have to provide several “before and after” images of the entire car.

The reason for these rules is to ensure that you haven’t used any stolen or otherwise illegally obtained replacement parts. This means that the state is more concerned with the legality of your rebuilt salvage vehicle than it is with its safety and reliability. This is an important point, because when it comes to insuring a rebuilt salvage vehicle. you can easily run into difficulties.

Work With Your Insurer

A rebuilt salvage car that passes its inspection can be legally registered and insured in your state. This means that your final task is to find an insurance provider willing to offer you coverage. However, since there’s little to no evidence of drivability required for this step, insurance providers are understandably reluctant to provide coverage.

Typically you’ll be able to get personal liability or property damage coverage from an insurer if you have a rebuilt salvage car, but since there’s no way of knowing how safe your vehicle is, the majority of insurance companies will pass on offering comprehensive, collision, or any other kind of physical damage coverage. However, if you can show your insurer that your car is in good shape, which often accomplished by a second inspection by an insurance agent, your insurer will be much less reticent to provide you with higher levels of cover.

Find information on Rebuilt Title Laws for Each US State. Explore our Vehicle Auctions, as well as finding more information about How These Auctions Work.

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