Salvage Car Title- Should I Buy?


I recently saw a 2004 Mazda3 s that I like a lot, but the owner said that the car has a salvage title and I checked out the VIN and indeed it does. She says that it got a salvage title because it was stolen, not because it was in a wreck, and that the car is in great shape (it looks like it is). I gave it a long test drive and it seems that she’s right. I know cars with salvage titles do not have blue book values, but I still feel like it’s a good deal at $9800 (it has 48k). She was very upfront about the title and recommended I take it to a mechanic for an inspection if I have concerns. Should I buy it?


I assume that it has a salvage title because somebody’s insurance paid off when it was stolen. The car eventually resurfaced, abandoned somewhere, and the insurance company had to put a salvage title on it since it had been written off. The only bad part is you have no idea how it was treated during the time it was stolen and not recovered. How long was that? Does the current owner know? How long has the current owner had the car? A good mechanic should be able to tell if there has been body damage and repair, or if they can’t tell then the repairs were really well done. Have a mechanic check it out. Then decide for yourself if you feel lucky. I’d probably take blue book price and knock off about 1/3 for the salvage title as a starting point for price.


Check with your DMV. In some states it’s a NIGHTMARE to get a car register that had a Salvage title. Other states like NH it’s a piece of cake.


A lot could depend on just where and how it was driven when stolen. Jumping curbs, plowing through the boondocks while eluding police, etc.
I would strongly suggest having it checked for paintwork and chassis damage.

That’s hard to say on the price. I would be a bit antsy about giving that much on a Salvage Title car that is 5 years old. In a few years that car would be essentially worthless because of that if you attempt to sell or trade it. The title has a stigma, deserved or not.

There’s always one like this.

Contact the seller and see if they’ll let you know the reserve. It might give you a baseline to work from. If the reserve on that one is 9800 then you know the Salvage branded one is overpriced.


Some concerns would be trying to sell to someone else.

Also insuring this rolling wreck can be an issue. Check with an insurer. Many time they will not offer collision/comprehensive insurance on this type of title.

Lastly the price is trade-in value on that model car in clean condition with a clear title. This price is an absolute rip off. Check out here ->


Thanks for the reply. The owner has had it for about 25,000 miles, and it looks as though the theft happened when the car was very new. I am going to take it to a mechanic to have it checked out though before I decide.


Great idea. I contacted that seller so hopefully that’ll give me something to go on. Thanks!


My insurer was fine with it being a salvage title, but they also recommended getting it checked out. I’ll see what they say and then try to negotiate a lower price if I want it.


In my experience, I’ve found that the salvage title becomes less and less of an issue as the car gets older. The thinking is that if the thing was catastrophically wrecked when it was new, if it made it this far they must have fixed it right, whereas once a car gets a little older, it can get totaled for very superficial damage that is is entirely possible to fix with no future problems. And nobody’s going to rebuilt a catastrophically wrecked car that’s more than 5 years old.

I’ve bought and sold a couple of cars with salvage titles in the 15-20 year old range, and it wasn’t an issue price-wise or with the DMV on either transaction. Once a car’s over 10 years old or so, the condition is going to be way more important to a private buyer, although trading in such a vehicle may be difficult. Mike is right, though, that depending on the state, the hoops you may have to jump through to register it may make a salvage title car much less attractive. I know in my state, registering a car with a salvage title that’s less than I think 10 years old has some extra paperwork, but the ones I did were no different than normal.


Well the reserve for this one is 14800 so it’s a lot more than the car I looked at, though it has 12k less on it.


Stolen cars are usually driven conservatively. A thief doesn’t want to attract any attention from the police. I’ve bought and sold SEVERAL recoverd theft units. No problem. I’ve done the same with slight wrecks. It really doesn’t take much damage for an insurance company to “total” an eight year or older car. I’ve seen them totalled for a slightly dented fender. The adjusters base their prices on NEW parts with new paint, and $75 to $100 per hour shop rates. Buy a used red fender or door for a dented red car, and you can save/make a bundle.


I think the asking price is too much. A general guideline is that a salvage brand cuts the value in half. I don’t think the title would have been branded unless it was found wrecked or stripped. If it was stripped, you might have a 48k car with an engine with 100k. You may a hard time getting financing as well. You can get a very nice non-salvage used car for $9800.