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What a “Salvage” Title Means


ClearVIN reports list a comprehensive title history on every report. A salvage title is usually given to a vehicle following an event that leaves it with significant damage. When an insurance company determines that the cost to repair a vehicle is greater than the cost to replace it, the vehicle receives a salvage title. Insurance companies estimate the costs of labor and parts at their contracted repair shops, which can be quite high.

Some vehicles with salvage titles have never even been in an accident! Similar to the approach with damaged vehicles, insurance companies write a check for owners of stolen vehicles. Since these cars are written off for the total cost of the vehicle, they are typically found among damaged vehicles at the same auction yards. Because a salvage title can be issued to a vehicle with easily repairable problems or no damage whatsoever, the low cost of the salvaged motorcycle or car is appealing to some hobbyists and investors.

In the US, motorcycles and cars which carry a salvage title may not be registered and driven on public roads in most states, which impacts resale value. Rebranding of the title is not permitted without having an inspection to verify that they meet all safety standards.

The Kelley Blue Book automatically rates any salvage vehicle as “poor” and does not value it at all. The value of a vehicle with a salvage title is generally 25-35% of the value of the same vehicle with a “clean” title. If the vehicle is rebuilt to a road worthy condition and has passed State inspection, the value is generally 60-70% of the value of the same vehicle with a “clean” title. These cars have “rebuild” or “rebuild salvage” annotation in the title and can be registered and operated just like a new car.

Vehicles with salvage titles are frequently listed in auctions because they can be bought at very low prices. But with a little work to be roadworthy, these cars become worth a lot more, giving the owners a great car at a low price or something to sell at a good profit.

Don’t forget to search car by VIN prior to purchasing it, as it can reveal important information about the car’s past. For business clients, we have a special offer with a bulk vehicle history report. Be sure that we will meet your needs!

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