Cars San Francisco
What is Salvage title? Car Insurance

What to Do to Insure a Salvage Car in California?

By Mike Richards Updated: 05/22/2019 Posted: 10/17/2015

If you are interested in finding cheap vehicles for sale, then you likely already feel like this isn’t possible. If you visit car dealerships, then you won’t likely find the type of prices you are looking for. Vehicles aren’t usually cheap, and that may mean transportation seems out of your budget. A better option to consider would be car salvage auctions. You can log on to your computer, go to an auction website, and bid on cars of pennies on the dollar. It is an excellent way to get a vehicle for a much lower price than you would ever be able to find otherwise.

Often, auto auctions online let you shop for vehicles from the comfort of your own home. You don’t have to travel anywhere in California to find the right car. And, many auction houses will even set up delivery for you. That means you make a bid, win a car, pay for it, and have it delivered right to you.

Of course, there are some things that you need to know about buying a salvage car. You can’t just drive one as soon as you get it. There are steps you will need to take as per the state of California to get the vehicle licensed and insured.

Understanding a Salvage Car

Some states define salvage vehicles based on a percentage of the car’s value compared to repair costs. In California, however, the state has a specific definition: the car must be “either totally destroyed or damaged beyond what the insurance company is willing to pay to fix it.” In those cases, when the owner makes a claim, the insurance coverage will simply replace the car and then apply for a salvage title for the original, damaged model. This will be done through the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Unlike other states, California doesn’t issue an actual salvage title. They issue, instead, a salvage certificate. The salvaged vehicle doesn’t actually ever have a real title again.

A vehicle can be damaged by a number of different things, like a collision, flooding, theft, vandalism, fire, and hail. Obviously, this means that not every salvaged vehicle is damaged beyond repair. If it is, then the car is “junked”, meaning it will be dismantled and sold for parts. However, if it is repairable, it actually can be legally driven again through a series of steps.

Since it is illegal to sell a salvage car without disclosing the damage information, this is why the state of California takes away the title and replaces it with a salvage certificate. In this state, you cannot get a license plate for the car and you will not be able to get insurance coverage. That doesn’t mean you are stuck with a piece of junk, though.

Getting a Revived Title

If you purchase a salvage car and you want to get it to the point that it is legal once more, then you will need to repair any damage that made it unsafe or not drivable. These repairs can range from minor to very extensive depending on the type of damage done to the vehicle. Once you have repaired the damage, you will need to follow these steps:

  • Get an inspection through the California Highway Patrol. This is done by appointment at our local DMV office
  • Get a Brake and Lights Inspection Certificate. Service stations and repair shops can be licensed to do these inspections, so look locally for a place to go.
  • Get the salvage certificate reactivated if needed. This is only needed if the vehicle has been out of the state’s system for a few years.

There are a few other things you may be required to do depending on the vehicle and the year it was made. You may need to get:

  • A weight certificate
  • A smog certificate
  • A Statement of Facts explaining what was done on the vehicle.
  • A vehicle Transfer or Reassignment
  • A Declaration of Gross Vehicle Weight
  • A detailed vehicle history

Once all of this is done and the car has been deemed drivable and safe, then you will be given a revived title. This is an actual title, not a certificate. And, that means your car can be legally registered. After you have gone through the registration process and you have license plates, your last step before driving the car will be to get insurance coverage.

Getting Insurance on a Revived Salvage

After you have the revived title, then you will need to begin looking at different insurance companies. Even though you have done the repair work, some companies may be loath to offer coverage, depending especially on the type of damage that caused the salvage in the first place. However, if you take the time to shop around, you will find companies that offer coverage.

In many cases, that coverage will be limited to liability. That’s the minimum you need to drive your car legally because it protects other drivers if you cause an accident. However, if you do look around, you may actually find companies that will offer comprehensive coverage. Those may be few and far between. Additionally, you may have to pay a higher premium based on the type of damage that happened to the car in the first place.

If you are looking for ways to buy a cheap used car, then a salvage vehicle just may be the right option. You can buy it through an online auction to save yourself hassle. Then, all you need to do is repairs to ensure the car is drivable and safe according to the state of California. As long as you follow all of the laws and regulations, then you can get that car tagged and insured. Again, it does help to shop around for different insurance companies since they can have varying standards about what they will and will not be willing to cover when it comes to salvage certificate vehicles. Whether you want full coverage or not, looking at various insurance companies can help you find the best prices and the best policy options.