Tips for Buying a Car with a Salvage Title

Last Updated on April 2, 2024 by John Robinson

For those in the market for an economical vehicle option, turning your attention towards salvage cars could be highly beneficial. Insurance agencies recognize these cars as total write-offs, where the expense of repairs significantly overshadows the car’s market value due to heavy damage. 

Cars with a salvage title are typically priced much lower than those with clean titles, making them an excellent choice for individuals adept with repairs and mindful of their budget. If you’re ready to dive into a vehicle restoration venture and obtain a car at a considerable discount, here are several valuable insights on how to proceed with purchasing a salvage car.

Compare Prices

Securing a salvage vehicle can offer substantial savings when compared to the cost of a vehicle with an unblemished title. Vigilance is necessary as there are sellers who might exploit uninformed buyers by demanding a price for a salvage vehicle that far exceeds its true value.

To ascertain you’re receiving a reasonable price on the salvage vehicle you wish to purchase, it’s vital to engage in price comparison. While ascertaining the exact worth of a salvage vehicle can prove challenging due to many influencing aspects, examining the market prices of vehicles of similar make and model can provide a foundational understanding of its value.

As a rule, the market value of a salvage vehicle is often estimated to be around 60% of the market value of its clean title counterpart, given identical make, model, and year. Should the price tag on the vehicle of your interest significantly outstrip this guideline, probably, the offer isn’t as advantageous as it might seem.

Understand the Specific Damage

The primary reason a car or truck is designated as “salvage” typically stems from crash involvement. However, vehicles with flood and fire damage in certain states also receive the salvage tag. 

Dealing with vehicles salvaged due to flood and fire can be particularly challenging; seemingly functional components may unexpectedly fail, making it difficult to determine the exact repairs needed to restore these vehicles to a relatively dependable state. The bottom line is that you should exercise caution when considering the purchase of vehicles with salvage titles due to water or fire damage.

Likewise, not all crash damages are equal; some are more acceptable than others. A general guideline is to opt for vehicles with only body damage or, at most, minor mechanical issues. It’s advisable to avoid vehicles with frame damage. 

Despite how well-repaired a vehicle with a bent frame might appear, it could lead to ongoing problems and significantly impact the vehicle’s safety even after an auto body collision repair, essentially becoming a source of constant trouble.

Understand the Worth of the Vehicle

A car with a salvage title offers a slightly different experience than possessing a clean title. Regardless of the number of repairs or how closely it’s been restored to a nearly new state, its resale value will invariably be less than that of a car without a history of a salvage title. For many owners, the initial savings outweigh this downside. 

Understand that the vehicle may not sell for the expected value later on. The label of a salvage title is permanent. Cars that have been repaired and pass inspections are still considered salvage vehicles, though they may now carry rebuilt or reconstructed salvage titles.

Search for a Transparent Seller

When acquiring a vehicle with salvage history, ensuring openness from the seller is key. Ideally, the person or entity selling the vehicle should be transparent, highlighting the specific damages and offering an in-depth overview of the vehicle’s overall condition within their advertisement.

This level of detail is pivotal for making an educated decision on the purchase. If the condition of the vehicle is not clearly communicated, or if the seller shows reluctance in providing this information, it might indicate potential concealment of significant issues. In such scenarios, it is advisable to consider engaging with a seller demonstrating more transparency.


Nowadays, a niche market exists for salvaged cars. Yet, this segment represents only a small fraction of the broader used car market. The reason is that a lot of these salvage vehicles come with questionable pasts, leading many people to dismiss them outright as a feasible option. Should you embrace the challenges of acquiring a salvage vehicle, let the following advice and recommendations serve as your roadmap.

John Robinson
John Robinson

Howdy! I’m John Robinson from Levittown, New York. I am a mechanical engineer for 15 years and already had an established car repair company. I developed a personal relationship with cars since I was a kid. I always love the sounds and smell emitted by a car or truck and even at construction machinery. Since then I have been married but my love for cars only grew.