Salvage title / cost of car

When I check Edmunds for car prices, there is no place to mention that the car has a salvage title. Am I correct in presuming that a salvage title car should cost me less than a car that hasn’t been damaged? Thank you.

Yes, you are correct. 50% is a good place to start negotiations on a rebuilt wreck. If they have “before” photographs so you can judge the extent of the original damage, that’s a plus. Trucks and other vehicles with true frames are more rebuildable than unibody vehicles. But don’t pay book price for ANY salvage title vehicle…

Listen to Caddyman. I’m worried - if you didn’t know this, you may be over your head in dealing with salvage title cars. They can have hidden problems that only become apparent after you buy, with no warranty. Watch out!

I think you should walk away from a car with a salvage title. I would not buy one with the intention of using it on the road.


I run a unit of consumer protection investigators for a state DMV, so I have lots of experience with this topic. There are some angles to this you may not have considered.

First, most banks won’t finance a vehicle with a salvage title, no matter how well it is rebuilt. And if you do find financing, it will probably be at an astronomical interest rate.

And if you want to insure the vehicle? Forget it. It is exceptionally difficult to find an insurer willing to write a policy on a vehicle with a salvage branded title – and again, you’re going to pay a lot more in premiums.

And finally, when the time comes to sell, you’re going to have a tough time getting rid of the vehicle. Dealerships will not take it on trade, and private buyers are likely to run the other way as soon as they see that title brand.

Repairs might be a problem, too. A strut replacement could turn into a nightmare when undisclosed front end damage plays havoc with the job. The car might eat tires. Or leak in the rain. It might chronically leak fuel, or experience electrical gremlins, or whatever. And if you’re involved in a collision, the car might come apart like a cheap suit. The airbag might not deploy. You just never know.

Particuarly handy folks with a high risk tolerance and plenty of extra cash on hand are well suited to cars like this. If you’re just looking for something to get you back and forth to work – forget it. The couple of bucks you save up front will never be worth the trouble.

There’s a reason that Blue Book guides don’t give market values on salvage cars – there’s no way to know what they’re worth, except that it probably isn’t much.

I own a salvage title car. I got financed with no trouble, with a low interest rate and the insurance for the car is no more expensive than my non-salvage vehicle. Everything else Triskellion said can be true of salvage title vehicles, but not always. Do what you will.

I have a salvage titled car Ive driven 50-60 miles a day (everyday) for the past 4 years. Grant you I have to put a little money in it from time to time. It had about 60,000 when I bought it and now has 125,000. No problem with insurance at all. Paid cash.

I think it really depends on the age of the vehicle when it was “salvaged”. If a car has been totaled, that means that the insurance company has determined that in order to fix it RIGHT, it’ll cost more than the car. So if you’re looking at a rebuild from a salvage title, that means that someone managed to fix it for cheaper and to do so almost by definition means cutting corners. Especially when you consider that since you can only sell a salvage vehicle for a deep discount, the rebuilder has to do the rebuild for less than even the price ceiling set by the insurance company.

Now, here’s where age of the vehicle comes in. When a car gets older, the value drops so much eventually that they get totaled for relatively minor body damage. Obviously cutting corners when you’re just switching out a fender or two and doing some minor paint work is not going to result in serious long-term issues or safety problems like some of the extreme rebuilds they do on close to new cars that are catastrophically totaled.

I suspect a lot of people who have good things to say about salvage cars have experience with cars that were much older when they were wrecked and saw much less extensive rebuilding. I once had a salvage-title 80 Mercedes 240d that had been hit behind one of the doors, totaled and donated to a charity. I ended up just driving it as was and it worked just fine for me, but really there was only about 1,500 bucks worth of superficial damage to it and I’m sure somebody could have fixed it up for cheaper and still got full market value for it.

I know a family who buys nothing but salvage title cars and they figure that they always come out ahead. They always pay less than half the blue book price for the car, and they assume that they will spend several thousand in the first year fixing squeaks, water leaks, electrical problems, etc.

They got a beautiful late model Camry a few years ago. The first thing they noticed was that the engine did not match the year of the car, and the various temperature and pressure sensors on the engine did not work properly with that car’s computers and instruments. Once they got all that sorted out, the mom was driving down the street one day and the front axle fell out of the transmission. Someone had just poked it in assuming the CV cover would hold it, they omitted the retainer clip that should have been installed inside the transmission. They were OK with all this because in the long run, the car was still a good deal, and they were expecting a certain number of problems.

As others have mentioned, if you are not familiar with salvage title cars, you should stay away from them.

AFTERTHOUGHT - I can’t speak to all auto makers, but I checked on BMW. They will not honor ANY warranty on a salvage title car, even if the warranty problem clearly has nothing to do with the damage that caused the car to be totaled. Once the car is totaled, all BMW warranties and certifications are gone.