salvage selling
What is Salvage title? How to articles US States Rebuilt Title Rules

How To Sell a Salvage Car and other Vehicles?

By Mike Richards Updated: 06/06/2019 Posted: 10/23/2015

It is perfectly legal to sell salvage vehicles, but we can’t overstate the importance of finding out what laws you have to follow. It can be a time-consuming, difficult process, so don’t just jump into it without being prepared. You can make money selling a salvage car, but you want to do it without ending up with a collection of legal problems.

Before you go any further, you should read up on the salvaged car regulations in your state. Some states have more strict requirements than others. However, in virtually every state, if you conceal the salvage status, you’re committing a misdemeanor and can be subject to a fine. The Department of Motor Vehicles in your state can help you understand your legal requirements.

Here are the three steps you should follow.

#1. Determine if the Vehicle is Actually Totaled

A totaled vehicle is one that will cost an insurance company more to repair than the car is actually worth. If you own the vehicle, have your insurance agent determine that the car is, in fact, totaled.

#2. Get a Salvage Certificate

Once the car has been designated by the insurance company as a write-off, you can go to the DMV and apply for a salvage title. They’ll issue you a salvage certificate in lieu of your old title.

Keep in mind that the car will always be considered salvaged, even once it’s rebuilt. That means that anyone who owns the car will probably be able to get PLPD insurance on the car, but rates for collision and comprehensive will generally be high, if that type of cover is even available.

This also means that any warranties that were valid on the car before the accident will no longer apply.

#3. Repair and Retitle the Car

Once you’ve got your salvage vehicle, you might want to consider repairing it. You can do this yourself, if you’re mechanically inclined, or hire a mechanic to do the job for you. A repaired salvage vehicle will be worth more than an un-repaired one.

However, you have to keep in mind that different states have different rules regarding rebuilding salvage vehicles which had damage, and that only if you comply with these will you be able to have the car retitled as a rebuilt vehicle, or equivalent. Therefore, be sure to check what rules apply to your specific case before you start rebuilding the vehicle.

#3. Sell the Car

Now that you have a rebuilt title, you can sell the car. Usually, the most hassle-free means of doing this is to go to a car dealership, explain that the car is salvaged, and then sell it for cash. Dealers will often buy salvage vehicles, fix them up and sell them at auction. You can also put the vehicle up for auction yourself, as a private seller. 

You can also sell your salvage car to a private buyer, but since insurance rates can be high on salvage vehicles, you can probably expect to deal with a good bit of bargaining.

If you can’t sell the car or you are unable or unwilling to repair the salvage vehicle, you can sell it to a scrapyard, or donate it to a charity and take a tax credit. Generally speaking, both scrapyards and charities will haul the car away at no cost to you.

The Final Word

If you’re a decent backyard mechanic, and you love repairing junkers, you might very well be able to turn a profit on a salvage vehicle. If you’re not handy, you might be better off just taking the money that the insurance company offers and walking away from the wreck. It’s up to you. But if you’re envisioning selling a salvage car, make sure that you understand the legalities involved.

Find information on Rebuilt Title Laws for Each US State. Explore our Vehicle Auctions and find information on Buying With Us.