5 Tips for Buying a Salvage Car

Assess the Vehicle’s History

In general, cars are given a salvage title when they have been damaged beyond around 75% of the original value or otherwise deemed a total loss by the insurance company. But this does not always mean that a salvage car cannot be repaired economically. Some salvage vehicles haven’t been in an accident at all. In some states, stolen and vandalized vehicles can be given this distinction as well. Never buy a salvage car when you do not completely understand what happened to the vehicle, because that can make a difference in how it stands up to your intended use of it.

Know the Vehicle’s Value

Owning a vehicle with a salvage title is just a little different from owning one that comes with a clear title. No matter how many repairs have been completed, even if it is restored to like-new conditions, the resale value will always be lower than a vehicle without the salvage title in its track record. For many owners, this isn’t an issue because the savings upfront more than make up for this. Still, it is important to understand why you might not get the amount you think the vehicle is worth if you decide to sell it later. A salvage title is one that sticks to a vehicle forever. Salvage cars that are fixed up and pass an inspection are still salvage cars, albeit with rebuilt or reconstructed salvage titles.

Get an Independent Inspection

For your own sake, it’s a great idea to have a second pair of eyes to take a look at the vehicle. An independent inspector can let you know what issues may come up over the life of your vehicle and give you piece of mind that the car is suited for your expectations.

If you have a mechanic you trust, or even an insurance agent who can recommend someone from his or her company, you don’t need to go to the trouble of seeking out an inspector. Have someone knowledgeable that you trust give the vehicle a close checkup and give it the go-ahead before move forward.

Decide if You Want to Take Care of Repairs Yourself

As we mentioned, there are two categories of salvage vehicles: ones that have not yet been repaired (salvage), and ones that have been (rebuilt or reconstructed salvage). While choosing a rebuilt salvage car is just fine and saves you from the time and effort it takes to repair the vehicle, you can monitor the repair process on your own and potentially save money by purchasing a damaged car.

This decision takes a lot of investigation, so be sure that you know what you’re getting yourself into. If you’re not auto-savvy, have a trusted mechanic assess the vehicle and help you determine whether taking care of the repairs yourself would be cost-effective. This route also requires more time, so if you’re in short supply, choosing a vehicle that is already rebuilt may be better.

Do a Safety Check

Before you hire a vehicle inspector, do some of your own investigating. At the very least, check the vehicle’s frame for any signs of damage, like cracks or metal fatigue. If the vehicle was involved in a crash, double check that all of the air bags have been properly replaced and that they are in full working order. You should also test out the seatbelts in the car. Do the pretensioners (the mechanisms that pull the belt tight on impact) lock properly? What about the car-seat latches located in the back seat? Are they still intact and do they appear to be sturdy? These are features of the vehicle that you may not immediately think about when you look it over, but they are the little things that keep you safe while on the road. Remember that each state has its own set of rules when it comes to buying, selling, registering, and insuring salvage cars. Visit the Department of Motor Vehicles website for your state before you start looking. The vehicle you have always wanted but couldn’t afford is within reach with some smart salvage car shopping.

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