When buying cars, you’ll probably come across vehicles that are listed as “clean titled” and “salvage titled,” with the latter one usually a lot cheaper. Ever wonder why? Let us tell you!

First thing we should understand is simply “what is a salvage titled car?” Salvage title is simply a form of vehicle title branding that indicates that the vehicle has been damaged and/or deemed a total loss by an insurance company that paid a claim on it. More specifically, a vehicle would be deemed “salvage” when the insurer determines that the repair or replacement cost is more than approximately 70% of the vehicle’s market value at the time of the accident or theft.

Vehicles which carry a salvage title may not be registered and driven on public roads in most states, which impact their resale value, thus, their prices become very low. Rebranding (i.e. making it “clean” again) of the title is not permitted without having an inspection to verify that they meet all safety standards. Furthermore, the inspection process can be very complex, and attempts to illegally fake the inspections are periodically reported. The value of a salvage titled vehicle is usually at least 25-50% lower than its estimated value. Additionally, some websites, such as Kelley Blue Book, would automatically rate any salvage titled vehicles as “poor” and does not value it at all.

So, after reading all the above, you probably already know that you should always avoid salvage titled cars. But, do you know how? Don’t worry, we got your back! Here are the tips!

  1. Have a trusted professional, mechanic check the vehicles out! The better the deal may seem, the more you should be careful!
  2. Get a detailed vehicle history report from either Carfax or Autocheck; they are both very trustworthy.
  3. Check the VIN of the vehicles you’re interested on National Motor Vehicle Title Information System website. The system does not have every single car, but do give it a shot!
  4. Pay a visit to your local DMV to check their salvage title laws; the laws differ by state, but it is essential to make sure you understand the policies before you spend anything.
  5. Call your insurance company to ask about the coverage and insurance rates.

Now that you know the trick, you may enjoy your car shopping! Remember, paying additional attention to details may help you save thousands of dollars and effort later on! Good luck and happy car shopping!