Sometimes a car deal sounds too good to be true – in which case, it may very well turn out to be a vehicle you want to steer clear of. Case in point involves vehicles with a salvage title.
When a vehicle has a salvage title, it typically means that at some point in its history it has been declared a total loss by an insurance company. This could be the result of an accident, fire, vandalism or other natural or man-made disaster. The damage the vehicle sustained has to be worth 75 percent of more of its value. Stolen vehicles that were recovered could also wind up with a salvage title in some states.
Another instance where a car ultimately carries a salvage title is government cars used for testing. After the testing is complete and the government has no further use for them, they are sold with a salvage title.
MORE: See What Is A Car Salvage-Title Vehicle?
The salvage title is issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), depending on the state, after going through an inspection. Note that inspection procedures vary from one state to another, with some being a simple VIN and emissions system check and others requiring a full inspection. Once a car has a salvage title, it cannot be driven, sold or titled in its current condition.
Salvage title cars may be able to be repaired and the DMV could issue a new title after a safety inspection. The vehicle will be “branded” as a salvage-title or restored salvage or resalvaged vehicle so that any prospective buyers know what they’re getting.
Is buying a car with a salvage title that’s been repaired always a bad idea? Experts say that if you have the time, money and are willing to go through having the vehicle properly repaired, a salvage title vehicle may be one choice. On the other hand, it could be a lengthy and expensive proposition, one that you might be better to avoid. Stick with a thoroughly inspected and mechanically sound used vehicle sold by a reputable dealer or private seller.