The process of buying a car, particularly a salvage vehicle, can feel a bit like navigating a totally foreign culture. With so many salvage cars for sale in the USA, should you consider buying a salvage car? There’s no right or wrong answer, but understanding what a salvage car is—and is not—can help you determine whether such a purchase fits into your budget and lifestyle.
What is a Salvage Car?
If you’ve ever been in a car wreck and had your car “totaled” by the insurance company, that car might subsequently have become a salvage car. Salvage cars are cars deemed a total loss by the insurer. The title must note their status because a salvage car is considered by the insurer to not be worth replacing.
That doesn’t mean salvage cars are worthless. Insurers total cars for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the minuscule amount of damage necessary for a car to be totaled is quite surprising. Common reasons cars are totaled and become salvage vehicles include:
- Weather-related damage, such as due to hail or acid rain.
- Damage to the car during a car accident. The damage may be superficial or structural.
- Damage to the car’s components due to an accident or other incident. For example, sugar placed in a car’s gas tank may destroy the engine and cause it to be declared a total loss.
- The car is only moderately damaged, but its value is relatively low, making it not worth the insurer to fund the costs of repairing the vehicle.
The key question when buying a salvage car will always be whether the damage is superficial or structural, and how easily the car can be repaired.
How Buying a Salvage Car is Different
When you buy a new or used car, you have a number of options: going to a dealership, buying from a private owner, certified or uncertified used, or even going online. Salvage cars are only available from a limited number of dealers. Many of these dealers advertise their cars online, at dealer auctions, and you might not even see a car before purchasing it. Because the car will likely need to be inspected, you also might not drive it off the lot.
That doesn’t mean everything about buying a salvage car is different. You’ll still need to pursue financing—and should do so before committing to buy, since not all lenders will finance a salvage car. You should also research the dealer from whom you buy the car, as well as the car’s history, since both factors weigh heavily on whether it’s safe to trust the car.
Is a Salvage Car Right for You?
A salvage car for sale in the USA can be a great deal, particularly if you’re strapped for cash and need a vehicle now. These cars often go for significantly less than market value, and many purchasers are able to pay in cash because of this discount. You might benefit from the immense savings associated with a salvage car if:
- You’re willing to invest time and research to ensure you get the right car.
- You have access to a mechanic you trust, who can check out the car.
- Your insurer is willing to insure the car.
- You can afford to pay in cash, or you have already preapproved financing for the vehicle.
- You don’t need to use the car right away, and can wait to get approval that it is safe to drive.
- This is not your only car, or a car you plan to give to a teenage child.
Benefits of Buying a Salvage Car
The benefits of salvage cars for sale in the USA are myriad. They include:
- A steep discount on a car that may have only superficial damage.
- A chance to fix up a car you might love.
- Access to hard to get cars, limited editions, and cars that are no longer made.
- The opportunity to expand a car collection.
- The ability to pay for a car in cash, free of any debt.
Drawbacks of Buying a Salvage Car
The fact that a salvage car offers massive savings doesn’t mean it’s the right purchase choice for everyone. Buying a salvage car demands a certain willingness to do extra work to save some money. A salvage car might not be right for you if:
- You need a car now, and need the car to be safe to drive the moment you purchase it.
- You want to treat your car as investment, or plan to resell it; the resale value of a salvage car may be low, and you’ll have to mark the car with a salvage title, further reducing its value.
- You don’t have time to research the purchase.
- You’re buying the car for emotional reasons. If you fall in love with a car, that can cause you to make a dangerous impulse buy.
- You have a history of buying cars that cause you problems. Don’t let the past repeat itself.
- There’s a non-salvage car available at a similar price.
- You’re buying internationally and do not know how much you’ll have to pay to import the car; import and other taxes can be quite pricey.
Salvage cars for sale in the USA offer many benefits to buyers, but before you take the plunge on a purchase, talk to car sales or buying experts. Once you understand the salvage car purchasing process, you may be able to turn it into a money-saving undertaking.