Looking at buying a 2011 Ford E350 with a salvaged title. What red flags should I look for?


I have a Craigslist seller with a 2011 Ford E350 with 43k miles asking $9,500. The van has a salvage title. He’s very upfront in saying he repairs salvages a couple of times a year to resell, and that this one had a side impact (picture attached). He said there was no frame damage. He replaced the panels. Says he’s had it four months and that the doors open and shut perfect, and it drives straight.

This could be a great deal for my family of seven. Is there a smart way to go about this, or red flags I should look for?


The very first thing you should do if you are serious about this vehicle is to take it to a good independent mechanic and have it thoroughly inspected. If the mechanic has no problem with it then odds are you have a good vehicle. Still…a salvage title vehicle can have problems with insurance companies and it will be worth about half of a comparable vehicle if you decide to sell it or trade it in later on. I know what these vans cost and $9500 is a steal if it passes inspection. Good luck.


I would be concerned about the rear quarter panel repair.

Replacing a door is one thing. But a rear quarter requires either straightening the sheet metal and using a lot of Bondo to make it look smooth, or cutting out the bent sheet metal and welding in new sheet metal so the minimal amount of Bondo is used.



Did he straighten the post holding the rear door’s hinges, or replace it? Did he paint the whole side, or just the damaged area? If the latter, does it match?

Get it inspected by a third party to see if there are undisclosed sins being covered up. Pinch weld clamp marks are a give away for having had a frame straightened, although the pix would appear to show that it was not bent. The damage was too high.

If it’s the wagon version, NADA shows it at about $19000 retail. He has it priced right.


Is it local? If not I’d pass, regardless.


Check that your insurance will cover the vehicle. Some won’t


@texases You make a good point. I assumed that the OP had spoken directly with the seller, seen the van, and taken the “after” picture. I don’t mind craigslist deals if I can see and touch the item, but otherwise I’d shy away from them.

@Barkydog My insurance company will cover rebuilt salvage vehicles, but they want to see them first. My wife is driving a Ford Escape that I fixed last year. It’s been a fine car.


The biggest most ginormous red flag to look for is a salvage title.
The second is a vehicle listed on Craigslist.
Either of these is a huge red flag, and either should be avoided.


Normally I’d say no but depending on the quality of the work, that might not be a bad deal. One thing for sure I’d do though is have the alignment checked to make sure that is OK and it was just cosmetic and panel replacement (plus of course the pillar). I’m wondering why it was a salvage in the first place so that would concern me. The other thing is you’ll never be able to sell it again without taking a huge loss so make sure its what you want and for sure the inspection plus the alignment issue.

My son bought a salvage and we really didn’t have any problems with it except one guy that said the alignment was off and couldn’t be fixed. It drove fine and no irregular tire wear but still evidently it was a problem. He found it and wanted it and when we looked at it the guy brought out the title with the big red salvage stamp on it. I said no, but the kid pulled out the cash and there was no turning back. It turned out to be a good car for his school years. Then it got squashed between two cars so we never had to try and sell it again.


The price is right; no doubt about that. Just from what I can see in the picture it baffles me why this thing has a salvage title. The damage does not look salvage title bad at all.

One follow up question might be the spots on the pavement in the “after” picture. It’s on the right front.
Is that spots from the vehicle in question or someone else’s doing?


Huh? All the salvage vehicles in my town sell for 90% of clean cars.


If someone is paying 90% for a salvage vehicle then they’re screwing themselves over by paying too much.

If they’re coughing up that much then why not just add 10% and completely avoid the potential risks and diminished value?


@ok4450, most people are very surprised at how little damage it takes to total their cars. Anything that’s over six years old is often totaled for just a fender or a door. Easy fixes. My wife and I both drive “totals” that I fixed with a little help from my friends. The van in question would take some real talent to fix, but it’s not hard for someone who knows what they’re doing. A good shop could knock that out in a day, and paint it the next.


Nobody should pay 90% That’s crazy.


@“MG McAnick” - Let me guess, its the airbags, right? "Anything that’s over six years old. . . " if the impact is enough to set off the airbags, the labor cost involved in replacing them becomes more than the book value of the car, thus the insurance company ‘totals’ out the car?

Also, yeah, it always seems like people selling a salvage title car want 90% of full value, but if I’m the buyer, I expect a de-e-e-ep discount, especially considering it would be very hard to sell the car later. I guess they find somebody who doesn’t know any better.


It would be interesting to know how they arrived at declaring the van a total. It just doesn’t look bad to me at all. The running board did not get whacked so the odds of any floor pan or chassis damage underneath would be negligible.
The impact area above the running board is mostly soft sheet metal so it’s difficult to see any major structural problems being present.

I also agree with MG McAnick that a good body man could knock that out in a day and shoot it the next.

A body man who used to live down the street from me has a '36 Ford 2 DR. He drove it to his shop one Saturday morning, chopped the top on it, body work finished, and in primer with the cut glass installed by late afternoon of the same day.

The following weekend he shot it in fire engine red and had a car worth drooling over.


If not craigslist, then where else are you going to list a vehicle for sale…Newspapers are history, classifieds are expensive and nobody reads them…eBay clips sellers for 10% of the sale price…OUCH !!

Did the rebuilder use new parts or did he find a donor vehicle (used parts)…

The BIGGEST bug-a-boo on a repair like that is the paint-work…Who did it? What technique was used? (Primed, 2 coats of color, then clear-coat? ) This is where problems will show up 3 or 4 years down the road if the paint was not properly done…If you plan on keeping it “forever” then the salvage title is not that big of an issue. That’s a lot of vehicle for $9500…


I’m in full agreement that it should be checked over pre-purchase but I might add this.

Seeing as how I’m pretty skeptical of how this van was declared a total over what looks like comparatively minor damage I might pose this scenario.

What if the van has been wrecked REALLY badly before and that is what led to the salvage title.
Once repaired and issued salvage paper it was whacked again and that’s what we’re looking at now in the one picture?
Going over the title history should answer that question.


I agree with @ok4450 . The damage doesn’t look bad enough to total it, even if the airbags went off. There has to be something else wrong with it.



There’s probably a lot of missing information