Maybe your insurer declared your car a “salvage” after you got into an accident. Maybe you are looking to buy a new vehicle and keep seeing great deals on salvage title cars. But what does it mean for a car to be called “salvage?” In this post, we are going to show you exactly what a salvage title is, how to identify one, and whether it’s worth it to buy a car that has one.
What Does a Salvage Title Mean?
A salvage title does not necessarily indicate anything about the current condition of a car’s safety or quality. It is indicative of a past event where the car went through a major accident.
If during this accident, the car incurred damages between 75 and 91 percent of the car’s pre-damage value, then the insurer might call it a total loss and tack on the “salvage” label. This can be caused by anything from flooding, hail, vandalism, car crash, and even theft recovery. Depending on the insurance plan, the insurer will then sell the car at an auction or dispose of the vehicle in some other way and reimburse the owner.
How Does a Salvage Title Affect My Purchase?
There are a few things to keep in mind about buying salvage title cars:
- The purchaser must repair the vehicle before it can get back on the road. If you are offered a salvage title, then you will want to ask to see records of the repairs (if any) and other vehicle damage reports related to the accident.
- The car goes through an inspection by a specially trained police officer before getting back on the road. But do not let this inspection fool you! It has nothing to do with the quality of the vehicle. According to officer Swanson, a Michigan State Police Trooper who inspects salvage title vehicles before relabeling them as rebuilt, “I’m not there to see if the car is safe to drive. All I’m doing, basically, is facilitating an inspection that shows that the parts that are on it aren’t stolen.”
- A trusted mechanic needs to check the car thoroughly. You have to understand that a salvage title vehicle has gone through such detrimental damages that an insurer deemed it a “waste of money” to repair. Unless you are a hobbyist, a salvage title is most likely not the reliable vehicle you are looking for. So if you are adamant about buying one, get it checked thoroughly.
This may seem like a lot to deal with. Getting all of the proper inspections and getting the car checked by a mechanic takes a lot of time and money. If you are in the market to buy a reliable vehicle for a good value, then we recommend browsing our inventory on TRED.
We commit to a 150-point inspection of all vehicles and make sure you know EXACTLY what you are purchasing and the current condition of the car.
How Do You Identify a Salvage Title?
No one wants to buy a vehicle and then find out that it has gone through a horrific accident. You want to know this beforehand! Here are a few basic ways to find out if a car you are buying is a salvage title:
- Get a vehicle history report by CarFax. This can cost anywhere between $39.99 and $54.99 depending on whether you get a single report or sign up to access unlimited reports for a limited time period. It costs extra, but it can save you thousands of dollars in the future.
- Check the title. Some states print salvage titles on different colored paper. In some cases, a title will not indicate that a car is a salvage. Check with your local DMV learn how your state manages salvage titles. And of course, use multiple methods to guarantee the quality of your car purchase.
- Ask the owner for repair and accident records. You should do this for ALL of your car purchases. This will show you if a car has been regularly maintained, if it has a history of needing constant repairs, or has had a major overhaul in the past.
Should You Buy a Salvage Title?
In short, the answer is no. We don’t believe you should. We’ve explained in depth why we think purchasing a salvage title is a bad idea. Unless you’re an expert or avid hobbyist and willing to put in a lot of time and effort to ensure the vehicle’s quality and reliability, it’s not worth the discount. And even then, you’re still taking a risk.
At TRED, we believe you should use a service that does the legwork for you. In our business, we get the Carfax reports, we check the car’s condition thoroughly, and we do all of the paperwork so you can focus on what is important: finding the best car for your budget and needs.
Are you looking to buy a car without the hassle and the risk? Then look at our list of used cars here and find the car you need.
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