Salvage Cars For Sale: Deals Or Disasters?

Rusted Ford Mustang and other salvaged cars for sale in a lot
Salvage Cars For Sale May Offer Opportunities When Budget Shopping

Salvage cars for sale can be very enticing to car buyers. Especially those of us looking for a great used car deal. But maybe the last time you read an ad for one, your inner voice started chirping “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t buy a problem we can’t afford!”

Should you still consider salvage cars for sale while searching for your next vehicle or should you pass by every ad with those two little words “salvage title”?

The truth is while some salvage cars may not be fit for the road and in need of major repairs or only good for parts, there are many more out there that actually represent tremendous deals to help drivers on a limited budget.

What You Need To Know About Salvaged Cars For Sale

Typically, cars earn a salvaged title after the insurance company has determined that the cost to repair damage to the vehicle from an accident exceeds a pre-determined percentage of the car’s estimated value (usually between 75 to 90 percent). In these cases, the insurance company declares the vehicle a total loss and the car is issued a salvage certificate by the DMV. (The process may vary by state.)

At this point, the insurance company will either sell the car to a repair facility or parts company or give it to a charity as a donation. If the car is repaired, many states will require the vehicle pass a safety inspection in order to have a new rebuilt title at which point the vehicle may be again sold in market.

Not all salvaged vehicles have been in an accident. A car may earn the title because of other issues.

Flood:  While some states note on a car’s existing title that it is flood damaged, others will simply change its designation to salvage instead.

Hail: Similar to flooding, some states do not have a “hail” category so simply title the vehicle as a salvage since no other proper designation exists.

Recovered: For many stolen vehicles, recovery happens well after the insurance claim has been processed. In these cases, the title is changed to allow the insurance company to quickly sell or donate the vehicle and recoup some of their expense from the insurance claim.

States including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma and Oregon all designate recovered vehicles under a “salvage title”.

Vandalism: No state has a designation for this type of damage, so any vehicle with enough damage will earn the salvage title.

Be Aware of Non-Repairable Titles

Unless you are a mechanic and need parts, your best to steer clear of any vehicle with a non-repairable designation. These severely damaged vehicles cannot be operated and are available only for use as parts. Vehicles in this category are frequently required to be sold to a scrap yard or outright destroyed per the state.

All of which begs the question:

Should You Consider Salvage Cars For Sale?

And the answer depends entirely on you. Are you the type of person that is ok with a car with a somewhat “checkered” history? Or will knowing that it suffered some past damage stay on your mind and leave you in a state of worry that something will go wrong? There’s no disputing the value a good salvage title car can provide to those of us who are buying our first car or on a tight budget or in need of second vehicle. The fact that you can find salvage cars for sale at well below half of what their clean titled counterparts are priced is worth consideration.

But, you should also be wary that some salvaged cars may be more prone to future problems. So it’s important you know what to look for to keep that risk to a minimum. Follow these tips to make your salvage car title purchase a deal not a dud:

  1. Get an Inspection

    Probably the most important thing to do. Bring a mechanic with you to check out the vehicle in person or make arrangements to have the vehicle brought to a service center. Mechanics and other auto professionals know what to look for and will be better suited to identify red flags such as frame damage.

  1. Know Who You’re Buying From

    Check out their online reputation to get an idea of who you’re dealing with. Are they known for their repair work and expertise in the salvage vehicle market? Are their customers recommending them or warning you to steer clear? If they are your best bet is to heed their advice and look elsewhere.

  2. Get the Original Repair Estimate

    Being able to see the original repair estimate will help you gauge how much damage the car or truck suffered. You’ll be able to see what parts were replaced and how and where the vehicle was damaged.

Salvage Cars For Sale: Other Things to Consider

  1. Insurance

You shouldn’t have any difficulty getting coverage for a salvage vehicle but check with your provider first. And be aware that if you should end up in an accident, the claim amount for a salvage car will be much less than what you would receive for a vehicle with a clean title. Keep this in mind when selecting your coverage plan for this vehicle.

  1. How to Put Your Salvage Car For Sale

Salvage vehicles present their own problems when owners try to sell them. Many corporate and franchise dealerships will not accept cars with salvage titles for trade-ins. More than likely, you will have to negotiate with either an independent car dealer or a private party.

You may also run into some issues trying to determine the car’s value as many of the online calculators only factor in clean title vehicles when determining a car’s resale value. Your best bet? Use the price you paid for the vehicle as the starting point for your negotiations as you look to sell the vehicle.

Since you will most likely be selling the vehicle to a private party, our advice is to use the price you paid for the salvage-title car as a starting point in your sale negotiations. If you’ve driven the vehicle for a few years, deduct a couple thousand dollars. Test the market with a price higher than what you have in mind and work your way down until you get the offers you’re looking for.

Whatever you do, do not try to disguise the fact that your car has a salvage title. It is fraud and the buyer will know the truth when you turn the title over anyway or if he gets a vehicle history report.

Search inventory of donated cars, salvage cars and other deals now.

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