salvage cars auction
What is Salvage title? US States Rebuilt Title Rules

Simple Car Auction Guide to Buying Salvage Cars at an Auction

By Mike Richards Updated: 09/11/2023 Posted: 10/22/2015

Many of the vehicles that are for sale at auctions are salvage cars, and this makes some people wary. They don’t know what they are getting into, and they wonder if buying at a salvage car auction is really the best choice for them. Even though the trepidation is understandable, it does not mean that you should avoid these auctions. In fact, you can find some truly fantastic deals on vehicles. Here Here are simple car auction guide and some tips to make sure you understand exactly what you are getting with your purchase.


Understand the Types of Salvage Vehicles at Car Auctions

There are several ways in which a vehicle may be declared salvage. In many cases, the different causes are expressed in the specific salvage title attributed to the car. The following is a list of the different types of salvage titles.

 1. Flood

A car that has flood damage might still be a good choice. It depends on the type of flood damage and the extent of the damage.

2. Theft/Recovered

In these cases, there may be very little wrong with the vehicle at all. After a car is stolen, an insurance company may replace the vehicle for the owner. When the vehicle is recovered, it will go to auction. There could be some cosmetic damage, mechanical damage, or no real damage at all.

3. Junk/Scrap/Non-Repairable

Cars with these salvage titles are only sold for parts, and you will not be able to get them back on the road.

4. Hail

Hail damage generally means only cosmetic issues with the vehicle, which are generally very easy to repair, although it might be costly depending on the extent of the damage.

5. Vandalism

Vandalism can cover many different things, from graffiti to body damage from an angry neighbor. Most of the time, the damage to the car will be cosmetic.

6. Collision/Accident

This is a common type of salvage title. It means that the damage to the car would cost the insurance company too much time and money to repair, so they decided to declare it a loss and replace it. The actual type and extent of damage can vary substantially in these cases.

7. Restored

Some restored vehicles might have salvage titles as well, simply because the original title is lost. There may be nothing wrong with these cars mechanically or cosmetically, but it really does depend on the individual vehicle.


Each of these different types of title is technical “salvage”, but some are certainly better for purchase than others.


Of course, this depends on your needs and what you will be doing with the vehicle. For example, a car with a junk title is not something you will be able to repair and get on the road. However, there may still be a number of parts from the vehicle that you could use. This could be a good option for someone who is rebuilding a vehicle and needs a few original parts.

Know the Problems with the Vehicle

When you buy at public car auctions, it is important that you take the time to learn as much as possible about the vehicle on which you will be bidding as a buyer. Know the type of salvage title, the type and extent of damage, and the price that you are willing to pay for the car, along with the repairs it needs. Сheck the VIN if it possible.


Go Through Reputable Parties

When you are buying a car at auction, it is very important that you check the reputation of the auction house to find out if it is trustworthy. Also, if you are working with a third-party bidder, you need to make sure that they are a reputable company, and that they are capable of getting you the car that you want. Before working with any company (dealer) or going through an auction, do your research on them to have some warranty.


Talk with the Insurance Company

Something else you will certainly want to do when you are considering getting a salvage vehicle at a car auction is to check with the insurance company to determine the process of getting insured. You will not be able to get insurance for a vehicle with a salvage title. However, you can work on the vehicle to get it into shape and then get a rebuilt title for the vehicle.

Insurance companies may have different rules about what they do and do not offer in terms of insurance for these types of vehicles. Make sure you understand what the insurance companies in your area will be able to provide before you spend money on a salvage vehicle.

Buying a car with a salvage title could be a very good option for those who are looking for a vehicle at an affordable price. Just make sure that you are shopping wisely and working with a great third party that can help you with the bidding.

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