How to clean a salvage title

A salvage car is one that an insurance company has determined to be a total loss, meaning the cost to repair it exceeds its market value (percentage thresholds vary by state).

Car lovers, especially those who enjoy doing serious repair work on them, can talk about salvage cars all day long. And for them there is nothing more fun than recover a vehicle that has been totally discarded and sentenced to the dump.

But nevertheless, there are many problems that need to be solved before you can get a diamond in the rough out of the rubbish heap and back onto the street, and one of the biggest has to do with titling.

Once a insurance company has deemed a vehicle a total loss, its title will be “flagged” as salvage.

In most states, you can’t drive or get insurance on a salvaged title car, and it’s hard to find a company willing to insure one, let alone get financing to buy a car in this condition.

Which brings us to the topic of this article: How to Clean Up a Salvage Title. We think it’s best to start with this question: Is it possible to clean a salvage title? And the quick and dirty but honest answer is: No.. Fortunately, that’s not the end of the discussion, and we’ll explain why below.

Keep reading: How long does it take to get a car title?

How do car titles work?

Before we begin, it is important to note that trying to hide the true condition of a car is a felony called title laundering. In this vein, each state’s car licensing regulations are different, so you should always check the unique registration requirements and titling rules before considering buying a salvage title car.

However, the rules are quite similar in most jurisdictions and work the same way. In fact, in most (if not all) cases, once a vehicle’s title has been declared salvage, it will never be titled again.

Now, in most states, the qualification it may be rebranded as “salvage rebuilt” (or in some places “refurbished” or “assembled”). Of course, this will require you to repair the vehicle and send it to your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for inspection. And if everything is in order, the DMV will re-mark the title as “reconstructed” or “rebuilt.”

So, presumably you could say that the salvage title has been cleaned up. But it’s only technically so. Anyone who knows anything about vehicle titles (and car history reporting services) will see the word “rebuilt” and know that the car was previously rated salvage.. This includes, by the way, all insurance companies and any potential buyers who know the world of cars. If this is a big deal for you, then we advise you to avoid salvage title cars. If not, keep reading.

What are the benefits of owning a salvage vehicle?

The best reason people buy salvage title cars has to do with budget.: You will end up paying an extremely low price for the vehicle, so it is very affordable compared to any other standard used car of the same make and model.

At the same time, it’s cheap to find auto parts for a vehicle whenever you need immediate repairs and maintenance. But nevertheless, remember that you will be responsible for determining the condition and functionality of the car before you buy it.

What are the disadvantages of owning a salvage vehicle?

First, be prepared for the hassle of shopping around for an insurance policy, as many companies avoid insuring salvage title cars.

The reason? It is that if you end up in a car accident, it would be almost impossible for the insurer to determine the causes of the damage. In fact, when looking for a car insurance of this type, you can end up facing two scenarios: rejection or very expensive premiums.

On the other hand, the price of repair is also a factor that you must take into account. While you may be lucky enough to snag a great deal, the price to get it repaired could be really expensive.

Therefore, be cautious and take the car to a mechanic to assess if it is worth buying and repairing.

Documents, papers you will need to clear a salvage title

  • The vehicle already restored and its salvage title.
  • Before and after photos.
  • Proof of sales tax paid or purchase price.
  • Sales invoices for the new parts used in the repair.
  • Work orders.
  • Vehicle registration and title application form.
  • Damage Disclosure Statement.
  • Vehicle inspection request.
  • DMV fees
  • Receipts for repairs and parts.
  • Request for reconstructed title.
  • Parts certification form.
  • Images of the vehicle when it was damaged.
  • Application fee.

How to clean a salvage title: Step by step

Below, we’ve outlined the steps you’ll typically need to follow to “remove” or clear a car’s salvage title.

1. Buy the salvage vehicle

This may or may not be as simple as it sounds. Some states only allow licensed rebuilders to purchase or own a salvage title car. If that is the case in your state, you will only be able to own the vehicle once it has been repaired and has gone through the inspection and title change process.

2. Repair the salvage vehicle

Make sure you know what you’re doing, and if not, have a certified mechanic fix the car. What’s more, make sure to keep all paperwork in the vehicle and take plenty of photos before and during the repair process.

3. Have the car inspected

To do this, obtain and complete the necessary forms from the DMV. This is where all those roles we mentioned earlier come into play. In this order of ideas, it is most likely that as part of the process the DMV will require that you send the bill of sale, the salvage title, the before and after photos and any other documentation that they deem necessary.

Remember, you cannot legally drive the vehicle to the inspection facility, so you will likely have to have it towed there.

Once it has passed the inspection (and you have paid the appropriate fees), the inspector can attach a decal to the vehicle that indicates the condition of the car.

4. Final paperwork

The next step will be to apply for the rebrand title, which will require filling out more forms and paying more fees. You should then receive the title with a statement marked on its face indicating that the vehicle has been rebuilt.

Another potential problem: If the vehicle received its salvage title in another state, you may need to have it repaired and go through the entire process in that state before you can register it locally. Once again, we recommend that you check the regulations in your state before purchasing a salvage car.

Things to keep in mind before trying to clean a salvage title

  • State laws regarding salvage vehicles vary, so check with your state’s DMV for specific renaming instructions.
  • Legally speaking, you can’t drive a salvage car into the inspection department, so you have to have it towed there.
  • When the car is approved after inspection, you will be issued a title that will be recorded as salvage rebuilt and will be noted as such on the title for the remaining life of the vehicle. The specific language will vary in each state. You must complete the forms and pay the fees for the new title. The title will show that the vehicle has been rebuilt and the previous salvage title will be erased.

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