salvage cars
What is Salvage title? How to articles Buyer Tips

How to buy Salvage Auto – Tips for Getting the Best Salvage Cars at Auction

By Mike Richards Updated: 08/08/2022 Posted: 10/24/2015

Used car auctions are one of the best salvage car sources for buying cars that have been written off by insurance companies because it would cost more to repair the vehicle than what it was worth.

These “totaled” cars are classified as salvage. These cars are illegal to drive until they’re repaired properly. Insurers don’t want to have to deal with such a problem, they’ll usually just sell them at auction instead.


What’s So Good About Salvage Cars

There are more than a few reasons to buy salvage title cars at auction. The first is that they can be incredibly cheap, thanks to their salvage status and the fact that the insurance companies that own these cars want to get rid of them as soon as they can.

The second is that a salvage car can represent an inexpensive way to get a new set of wheels. For those with the mechanical knowledge to reconstruct and rebuild a totaled car on a budget. Finally, salvage cars represent a low-risk investment for used car dealers looking to bolster their inventory by having employees restore the car to working order and absorbing the associated labor costs.


What’s Not So Good About Salvage Cars

Unfortunately, the term “salvage car” doesn’t even begin to cover the breadth of different ways that a car can end up totaled and written off. In some instances, if the car has been severely wrecked in a serious accident. There’s no coming back from that. In fact, most of those types of cars won’t end up at auction but sent right to the scrap yard.

However, cars that suffered less catastrophic types of damage may look good on the surface but could be harboring secret costs, while salvage cars that look a bit rough on the outside might just have cosmetic damage instead.

There are two excellent examples of how looks can be deceiving when it comes to salvage cars.

The first is when a car looks fantastic inside and out but has a hint of dampness within. This is a strong indication that the car was in the aftermath of a flood that reached high into the car.

Vehicle interiors can replace or dried out. But water infiltrating the electronics of a car can cause invisible irreparable damage. Avoid salvaging cars like that.

Meanwhile, cars that have some rather gnarly-looking bodywork or evidence of vandalism on the outside or within may be mechanically sound and be relatively easy to repair – especially if the car was stolen or taken for a joyride, and then abandoned.

Stolen cars are written off by insurers all the time, only to be found afterward, and since they’ve already been totaled out they can’t just be returned to the owner – even if the car is nearly intact and able to be driven. Recovered theft salvage cars are, as a result, often some of the most rewarding investments when it comes to reselling salvage cars after you’ve rebuilt them.


Online Versus In Person Auctions

Today, many people buy salvage cars right over the Internet, as most used car auctions offer online access to bidders as well as those who show up in person. Bidding online has many advantages, as you don’t have to actually be in attendance at a physical location in order to bid on, and win, salvage vehicles.

At the same time, there are a few disadvantages to shopping online for salvage cars, as not every online auction site will provide much in the way of detailed information on a car up for auction besides a picture or two if you’re lucky. This can mean buyers may run the risk of making a poor investment because they didn’t have enough information to go with during the bidding process.

At the same time, online used car auction bidders often need to pay to have any cars they win at auction transported to their location. If you attend a car auction in person, you can always bring a flatbed or covered trailer with you to haul off any salvage cars, but those who aren’t physically present (or those that don’t have a trailer at their disposal) will have to pay the auction company to ship the car to a certain address.

Thankfully, this isn’t much of an expense, especially in light of the very low price points for most salvage vehicles. However, it is something you’ll need to keep in mind if you’re shopping for salvage cars at auction.

Explore our Vehicle Auctions, as well as finding more information about How These Auctions Work and Buying With Us.