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Cars 101: What Is a Salvage Title and How Is It Determined?

Marc Skirvin
Marc Skirvin

What's in this Article

You’re looking at a new vehicle and see that it has a salvage title.

What does that even mean? Is it a bad thing? Does it mean the car is a bad value?

Well… it depends. The answer to those questions relies on the history of the specific vehicle.

Keep reading to learn about vehicles with a salvage title and what it means if you want to buy or sell.

What Does a Salvage Title Mean?

If you are looking for a good deal on a car and notice cars that have a salvage title, you probably are curious about what that really means. A car will have this type of title if it has suffered damage in the past.

This is generally going to be some serious damage that may seriously impact the car.

Every state has a different requirement in terms of how much damage needs to be inflicted upon the car for a salvage title to be appropriate. The average for most states is about 75% damage.

In addition to this, the title is going to stay with the car for the rest of the car’s life, no matter how many new owners it may have.

How Does a Car Get This Title?

When most people think of damage to vehicles, they probably think of a car that was in an accident with another car or some other type of collision. Although these can cause a car to end up with this title change, it isn’t the only way to get significant damage.

There are actually a lot of reasons why a car may end up with a salvaged title, such as weather damage or vandalism. For instance, if someone spray painted all over someone’s car to the point that it was significantly damaged, it could be given a salvaged title as a result.

You will also find that cars that were stolen, paid off by the insurance company, and then later recovered will be required to register with this type of title as well.

If a car is damaged to the point that it can no longer be repaired, it may get something called a junk title. This is a little different than a salvage title. In most states, it means that the car isn’t allowed to be repaired and needs to be sold for parts or destroyed in some other way.

Selling a Car for Parts

Before you decide to salvage your car or sell it to a junk yard, you want to consider the pros and cons. After all, it can be a big choice to decide it just isn’t worth the time and energy to keep the car going anymore.

It can be expensive to maintain a car that has suffered significant damage in the past, so it makes sense that it may be more fiscally responsible to just get rid of it.

Why Would You Junk the Car?

Consider how much you are paying to keep the car going. In addition to this, see if you can get quoted on how much you may be able to get for the whole car from a scrap yard.

You also want to consider how much you are paying for your insurance with a salvage title vehicle. It can be pretty expensive when you compare it to a vehicle with a normal title and this can be enough for anyone to make the switch.

Before making this decision, you also have to make sure that you have an alternative method of transportation lined up. Getting another car is not always a simple process, especially if you have a strict budget. You may find that it is cheaper for you to continue maintaining and repairing the other vehicle for now.

Are There Other Options?

Instead of selling the car for parts or to a scrap yard, you could also do a few other actions that could benefit you in the long run. It depends on your independent situation.

Instead of junking the car, you could trade it in for another car. This can be a risky move, but it also can be lucrative depending on several factors.

Trading in the vehicle is a common option because it is easy and takes the car off your hands quickly. Your dealership will tell you how much they will give you for your old car and this amount can be put toward a new car.

Another move that is quite common is to donate the vehicle. Even if your vehicle isn’t perfect, for someone out there it may be better than nothing. Not only is this great for karma, but it also is another easy way to get rid of the vehicle!

A lot of people choose to donate simply because they can know they did some good in the world and potentially get a tax benefit as well.

Should You Buy a Car With a Salvaged Title?

The answer to this question is going to depend on several factors, such as your comfortability with it and how risky the purchase actually could be.

One of the positive things about buying a car that has this type of title is that you likely will get a good price. If you’re on a budget, these vehicles may be priced a lot less than you imagine and the prices are easier to negotiate in many instances.

A negative to this choice would be that the vehicle may have more mechanical problems. It also may be harder to sell later on if you decide to get rid of it.

If you are considering purchasing this type of vehicle, make sure that you consider all aspects besides the low price to make a smart choice for yourself.

Buying a Previously Damaged Vehicle

Having a car with a salvage title can result in having to make some tough decisions down the road. In addition to this, if you want to buy a vehicle with this title and are unsure, you have a lot of things to think about before you make that choice.

Luckily, there are some easily accessible answers out there! We are here to answer any questions you may have.

If you are interested in selling your junk car for some extra money, consider learning about how easy it can be and contact us if you need some help.

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About the Author


Marc is the Co-Founder of Cash Auto Salvage and Director of daily operations. He retired from a leading Internet Marketing company in 2013 and has been involved in the automotive industry ever since.

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