Car Buying

What Is a Salvage Title?

While buying a salvaged car may seem like a good deal at first, there are risks. Learn what a salvage title is, why cars receive this designation and the pros and cons of buying a car with a salvage title.

Read time

7 minutes

Date

08.24.2023

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Thinking of buying a car with a salvage title? While a salvaged car may seem like a good deal, there are risks. Repairs may not have been done properly, oftentimes leading to ongoing issues. Plus, it will be harder to resell later down the road since most buyers avoid cars with salvage titles. By understanding what a salvage title car is, you can find out if purchasing a car with one is right for you. 


Also, if you don’t want to take on the risk of buying a car with a salvage title, yet you still want to get behind a wheel, pick a car subscription from FINN as the best alternative. Choose the duration that suits your needs, choose from a variety of car models, and enjoy a seamless experience from online selection to doorstep delivery. With FINN, you get all the benefits of driving a car without the upfront costs and hidden fees. 

What is a salvage title?

A salvage title means a car has been totaled out by an insurance company after being severely damaged. This typically happens when the cost to repair the vehicle exceeds its actual cash value. At that point, the insurer takes possession of the damaged car and sells it off as a salvage vehicle. The title is then branded as salvage to indicate the car's troubled history.


Salvage titles serve as a warning to potential buyers - this car has endured major problems. The damage could have resulted from a serious accident, flooding, fire, vandalism - anything that made the insurer declare it a total loss.


Now, it is possible to rebuild a salvage title car by fixing it up to roadworthy condition. But repairs may not have been done properly or issues could reappear down the line. So salvage titles come with considerable risks that buyers need to weigh carefully.


The takeaway? Approach salvage title cars with caution. Make sure to educate yourself on salvage laws where you live. And get the vehicle thoroughly checked out by a mechanic before purchase. While they can seem like good deals, salvage titles often come with lingering headaches.

Why does a car have a salvage title?

While the exact categories may differ depending on your location, a salvage title generally indicates that a vehicle has sustained damage in the following ways:


  • Collision damage: The vehicle has been involved in a severe accident, resulting in significant structural or body damage.
  • Fire damage: The vehicle has been affected by a fire, potentially leading to compromised systems or components.
  • Flood damage: Exposure to flooding can wreak havoc on a vehicle's electrical, mechanical, and interior systems. 
  • Theft recovery: The vehicle has been stolen and subsequently recovered, but it may have missing parts or other forms of damage.


Former commercial use: The vehicle was previously utilized as a taxi, or law enforcement vehicle, or underwent remanufacturing for resale purposes. Such usage may have contributed to wear and tear beyond normal levels.

Can you buy a car with a salvage title?

Yes, you can buy a car with a salvage title. But before you do, it's important to understand exactly what that means. When a vehicle is badly damaged in an accident, flood, or other event, the insurance company may deem it a total loss and take possession of the car. They then brand the title as "salvage" to indicate the car's history of damage.


In most states, salvage title cars can be fixed up, reinspected, and retitled for road use again. However, repairs may be subpar or issues can recur. And insuring and financing a salvage title car is often harder. 


So while you can legally buy a salvage title car, it's wise to approach with caution. Do your homework to understand the specific damage and required repairs. Get a thorough inspection by a trusted mechanic and make sure you feel comfortable with the risks involved before purchasing a car with a tainted history. The cheaper price may not be worth the headaches down the road.


FINN is a subscription alternative to landing your next car. Instead of going through the stress of buying and restoring a car with a salvage title, FINN has a range of cars suitable for all budgets. Your subscription includes maintenance, taxes, insurance, and roadside assistance bundled into one payment for complete peace of mind.

Should you buy a car with a salvage title?

If you want to buy a salvage title car, you should consider the pros and cons first. A salvage title indicates a vehicle's been totaled. While repaired salvage cars can be good deals, they come with risks too. 

Pros of buying a salvage title car

  • Cost savings: Salvage-title cars are often priced significantly lower, offering savings of around 20% to 40% compared to vehicles with clean titles.
  • Potential minimal damage: Not all salvage-title cars have undergone severe accidents. You might come across vehicles with salvage titles that were stolen and recovered with minor cosmetic damage or those stripped for parts. Repairing such cars could be more cost-effective than purchasing another vehicle.
  • Availability of parts: If you require rare or expensive parts for a restoration project, buying a salvage-title car that has the necessary components can be advantageous. Alternatively, you can choose to fix up the salvage-title car itself.

Cons of buying a salvage title car

  • Extensive damage: Total extent of damage is tough to assess. Hidden issues lead to unexpected repair costs.
  • Safety risks: Shoddy repairs by some shops compromise safety. Careful evaluation is critical.
  • Potential fraud: Sellers may hide full damage history. Leaves buyers footing the repair bills.
  • Insurance/financing hurdles: You may encounter limited coverage options as most lenders won't finance salvage titles. It may be tricky to calculate interest rates too.

Key considerations for buying a car with a salvage title

Buying a salvage title car can be risky business. But going in informed and taking precautions can help make it a secure purchase. 


First things first - get a thorough inspection by a trusted mechanic. They can check for any hidden damage or safety issues that may not be obvious. Don't skip this step. Then get a vehicle history report. Knowing the full accident and repair history will shed light on the extent of damage. That means no more surprises down the road.


It's smart to look up the salvage laws in your state too. Some have extra inspection or paperwork requirements for putting a salvage title car back on the road legally. And don't forget to estimate potential repair costs. Make sure restoring the car to safe conditions is actually feasible for your wallet.


Finally, check in with insurers about coverage options. They may limit protection or charge more to insure a salvage title. Stay vigilant against typical dealer tricks and buy smart. Do your homework upfront and take precautions - it will pay off in a secure purchase.

Final thoughts

Understanding salvage titles is crucial before purchasing a car with such a designation. While cost savings and restoration opportunities are advantages, there are risks like extensive damage and difficulties with insurance and financing. Thorough inspection, research, and caution are essential to minimize potential risks.


Looking for an alternative to buying your next car? Check out a FINN car subscription. Enjoy a new car every six to 12 months with insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance included. Say goodbye to ownership hassles and experience the freedom of a new car without commitments. See FINN's range of incredible vehicles and get started in just 5 minutes.

Final thoughts
Final thoughts

Final thoughts

Understanding salvage titles is crucial before purchasing a car with such a designation. While cost savings and restoration opportunities are advantages, there are risks like extensive damage and difficulties with insurance and financing. Thorough inspection, research, and caution are essential to minimize potential risks.


Looking for an alternative to buying your next car? Check out a FINN car subscription. Enjoy a new car every six to 12 months with insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance included. Say goodbye to ownership hassles and experience the freedom of a new car without commitments. See FINN's range of incredible vehicles and get started in just 5 minutes.

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