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Salvage Vehicles


I’m interested in buying a car and because I’m cheap, I keep running across cars with salvage titles. I looked up registering a salvage vehicle on the NYS DMV website and there seem to be a lot of hoops to jump through.

One of those hoops involves having all the receipts for all the repairs and parts used on the car to make it road worthy. My first question is, if you are buying a car that has already had the repairs done by the previous owner/dealer do you still need to have all these receipts?

My second question is, is it even worth going through the trouble to buy a salvage car? Should I steer clear of them?

I hope all that made sense! Thanks!!


In my opinion the word “salvage,” is another word for JUNK. No matter what the cause (accident, flood, theft, etc.), the vehicle has a salvage title because an insurance company concluded that the cost to repair the vehicle was more than the vehicle was worth, and insurance companies are VERY GOOD at determining the real value of a vehicle.

It’s your money. Spend it as you see fit. Personally, I would steer clear of anything with a salvage title, no matter what claims the seller makes, or how many receipts there are.

Flood cars (aka “Swimmers”) are particularly bad. NEVER go anywhere near a vehicle that has flood damage.


mcparadise is correct.

When Jessica refers to “registering,” I assume she means titling the vehicle as her own and getting license plates, so she can legally drive it. In PA we refer to it this way, too.

Oh, ok.

Being cheap is one thing, but this I beleive would be a lot more expensive than just going out and buying a new or used car.

Like has been noted, I too would ‘steer’ clear of salvage vehicles.

Be very careful when inspecting a used vehicle to buy as it may turn up as one of many that have ‘flooded’ the market since Hurricane Katrina.

“One of those hoops involves having all the receipts for all the repairs and parts used on the car to make it road worthy”.

If I read this correctly, and you interpreted it correctly, if there were no repairs needed to make it roadworthy, then no receipts are needed. In other words, the first owner after the car was wrecked/flooded has to prove he repaired it. But check with the DMV.

Thanks to all for your responses. I’m thinking that it might be easier to just completely avoid any vehicles with a salvage title.

For the previous poster, the senario is, I have a friend who wanted to sell me their mother-in-law’s car since she can’t drive anymore. When MIL bought the car (from a dealer who bought it at auction), it was with a salvage title. This was 5 years and 60,000 miles ago. Since the car is in Massachusetts, and I am in New York, it’s not a simple thing to get the car registered in my name, in my state. I have to mail a $200 check, and a proof of ownership form to set up an appointment for an inspection. The appointment would most likely be in 3 months or so, during which time my car would have to sit parked, on the street, without a plate and undrivable. According to the website, I also have to have reciepts for the rapairs, but that was, like I said, 5 years, 60,000 miles, and 1 owner ago. The previous owner never had the reciepts. So, if I bring the car in for this inspection (towed, since there are no plates), it would be after owning the car for a few months, and I don’t even know if they’d pass the car.
I’m thinking it may just be too much trouble without even looking into how sound the car is.

From my reading of it, you only need the service receipts to register a car that doesn’t already have a salvage title on it. This is to prevent car thieves from buying wrecks then stealing perfectly good cars and switching the numbers (see the 1974 version of "gone in 60 seconds). If the car already has a salvage title, there are no further hoops you the buyer must go through.

And, while I agree with the other posters that I would never buy a late-model vehicle with a salvage title, keep in mind that once a car gets to be a certain age, it doesn’t take much to total it. I have owned a couple of cars in the 15-20 year old range that had been previously “totaled” by relatively minor body damage that turned out to be just fine. If this car was totaled 5 years and 60,000 miles ago and has seen no issues related to the salvage, I wouldn’t worry about it, especially if you can get a deal on it. Of course, if you go to sell it, you might take a hit, but if it’s already a cheap car now, by the time you go to sell it it will probably be devalued to the point in which the salvage title is moot.

You can try anything, but why try to get hurt on a car deal? You can use a skateboard for that.

good points.

I wouldn’t mess with a salvage title unless the car was rare/valuable enough to make the hassle/expense worthwhile. If you are just looking for cheap transportation, there are tons of cheap cars on the market every day.

I don’t see how buying a Salvage vehicle is going to save you any money. It’ll cost you as much or more money to get it fixed then buying a used vehicle of the same year and model that hasn’t been junked. The ONLY time I’d ever consider a Salvage vehicle is for a classic that I want to restore.

The OP isn’t buying a wreck to rebuild herself-- she’s just buying an older car that has the “salvage title” designation on the title. There is a stigma to having this on the title, which means the car costs less but, as I was explaining, on older cars a salvage title doesn’t necessarily suggest serious issues like it does on a newer car.

I’m not suggesting that either. There may or may NOT be issues…the problem is knowing what those issues are. There may be many hidden problems that need to be resolved that an inspection may not discover.

It may not be that bad IMHO, salvage title or not. It all depends on what kind of car, total mileage, and the asking price.
Since MA also has an inspection program, maybe the vehicle will meet NY standards also???

After broadsiding my Subaru against an apparently legally blind driver in a K2 Blazer, I repaired the car on a salvage title and drove it for 7 years and and additional 180k miles with no problems. (Had about 120k when hit).