Questions & Answers
Have some questions about buying an insurance salvage vehicle? Here are some questions we get asked all the time. If you have a concern that’s not addressed here, feel free to email us!
When a car has been in an accident, stolen or weather-damaged, the car insurance company may total it and take possession. Insurers then sell these cars at auction to salvage yards or rebuilders to recover part of their loss. The car will be issued a salvage title to warn future buyers that an insurance company has declared the car a total loss.
Most states have laws that set a threshold on the amount of damage needed to declare a car totaled, usually between 51 percent and 80 percent of the car's actual cash value.
There are occasions that a perfectly good car gets a branded title. A good hailstorm can do thousands of dollars of cosmetic damage, leaving the mechanicals as good as new. A fender-bender can cost more to repair than an old car is worth.
According to a Consumer Federation of America report, 2.5 million vehicles are totaled each year. Roughly 1.5 million are repaired and put back on the road.
A car with a salvage title hasn't always been in a collision, however. Mark Binder, national salvage manager for Farmers Insurance, says that there are a number of reasons why a vehicle might get a salvage title:
Flood damage: Flood-damaged cars* sometimes get a salvage title. Some states will specifically call out flood damage on a car's title, but other states merely use the term "salvage title."
Hail damage: As with flood cars, the titles of vehicles that are damaged by hail can also get a salvage title if the state does not have a specific "hail damage" designation on the document.
Theft recovery: After a vehicle has been stolen and is missing for a certain period of time, the insurance company will pay off the vehicle. If the vehicle is eventually found, the insurance company is free to sell it to a salvager, which will replace any missing parts. Some states will then issue a salvage title for the car.
According to Carfax, a company that sells vehicle history reports, the following states issue a salvage title after a car has been stolen: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma and Oregon.
Vandalism: If someone spray-painted or overturned a vehicle and caused enough damage, the car could get a salvage title. No states specify vandalism in the title, however. It will likely be issued a salvage title.
Non-Repairable: A severely damaged and non-operable vehicle with no resale value other than its parts can get a "non-repairable" designation, which some states call a "junk title." In these extreme cases, the state won't allow the vehicle to be repaired and it must either be sold to a scrap yard or destroyed. "Non-repairable" isn't a salvage title per se, but it is important to be aware of the term, just in case you come across a vehicle that's been labeled this way.
*note: we do not sell flood-damaged vehicles due to complex modern electrical components and their susceptibility to damage.
Depending on the severity of the damage, many of these cars can be safely repaired and rebuilt for safe road use.
Many states will require that you have the vehicle inspected to make sure that it is roadworthy. If the car has been salvaged, or rebuilt, it then receives a "branded" title.
At Steve Covey's Wrex, all of our vehicles are inspected by the State of Florida and receive a Florida rebuilt title.
1. Have the vehicle inspected: This is one of the most important things to do if you're considering the purchase of any car. Bring a mechanic with you for an inspection. A car professional will have a better idea about whether the repairs were done correctly and can spot any red flags, such as unrepaired frame damage or parts that still need repairing.
2. Purchase the vehicle from a reputable repairer: Search for online reviews of the facility that's selling the vehicle. If it's one that's known for making quality repairs, buying a salvage-title car there may be less risky than purchasing from someone without a track record.
3. Ask for the pre-repair photos: The best way to determine how extensively the car was damaged is to look at the original photos. This will show you what parts were replaced and how serious the accident was — or if there was an accident at all. Maybe the damage happened in some other way.
Feel free to call Steve at (941) 374-0528 or contact us online!