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Restoring a Salvage Car: From Written Off to Roadworthy 

By Mike Richards Updated: 09/01/2017 Posted: 10/24/2015

Not every salvage car ends up being turned into scrap. In fact, quite a few of these vehicles end up being brought back from death to be driven once more on our nation’s highways and local roads.

Here’s how you can go ahead and rescue a salvage car of your own.

From the Jaws of Death

Unless a salvage car is utterly demolished by an accident, its first stop isn’t always the junkyard. The insurers that end up with these cars don’t sell them to the scrap yard because they can get more for them by selling them at auction to individuals or companies that want to restore them.

This is a win-win situation – insurers get a better return on their investment than selling a salvage vehicle to a scrap yard, and those who buy salvage vehicles at auction get a great deal on what would have been a much more expensive vehicle if it hadn’t been written off as a result of an accident.

Intensive Care

There are primarily two types of people who buy salvage cars from these auctions: individuals who enjoy restoring cars in their spare time, and companies that like to restore and then monetize the cars by re-selling them. No matter what, the salvage car is going to have to undergo repairs before it can be driven legally once more.

This could be either easy or time-consuming, depending on the extent of the car’s damage. However, once a salvage car is put back together to the point where it’s safe to drive once more, it needs to be inspected by a state official before it can be given permission go back on the road.

The Inspection

Salvage car regulations differ from one state to another, but in the majority of US states require that you submit a rebuilt salvage car to a qualified state inspector so he or she can give the vehicle the once-over. These inspections are usually concerned with ensuring no stolen parts were used during the rebuilding process, which means you’ll have to present all the paperwork you’ve accumulated over your repair process – bills of sale and receipts for parts you’ve purchased or for any work you had done by a third party, proof of ownership of the vehicle itself, and so on.

If your salvage car manages to pass this inspection, you’ll be given a new title, one that brands the car as “rebuilt salvage” or something similar. At this point, you’ll be almost ready to get the car back on the road.

Getting Insurance

Have you ever tried to insure a rebuilt salvage car? If you haven’t, you’re in for a rude awakening – it turns out that it can be very difficult. In most states, you’ll be able to get the bare state-required minimum – PLPD, or personal liability and property damage. However, if you want higher insurance coverage you’re going to find that many insurance companies will refuse.

It’s no big secret as to why. Insurers aren’t going to provide high levels of coverage to a car that has already been totaled in an accident. They don’t know that you did a good job repairing it.

You can get around this if you can prove to an insurer that your car has been repaired to a good standard. Getting your car inspected yet again – this time by a car insurance agent – can put an insurance agent at ease to the point where they’ll offer you comprehensive or collision insurance.

However, the premium for your insurance policy is likely to be high. Insurers may be willing to work with you, but they are going to charge more for it.

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

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