Wrecked Salvage Cars For Sale

What Does "Salvage Title" Mean?
In cases of collision damage, an insurance company will write off a car as a total loss if its repair estimates exceed 70-75% of the car's book value. Considering the high price of body work, an older vehicle can be declared a total with very little actual body damage. The insurance company will typically send the car to a salvage auction, where individuals can bid on them; some bidders will be ordinary guys looking for a project to work on, while others will be rebuilders and dealers who buy at auction, restore the car and sell it with a "restored salvage" title.

That can vary state-by-state, though. Certain states do not record salvage titles as such:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Rhode Island
  • Texas
  • Vermont

And remember that certain things can mean that a car may never be drivable, but may have parts, or parts of a frame that are useful. A badly bent frame, steering or suspension damage, safety issues like airbags, brakes and ABS systems, body sensors or seatbelts, radiator support damage or any number of other problems can add up to a car that may never drive or handle right, but might be excellent for parts. Also bear in mind that collisions can often mean body-related electrical problems (shorts, broken connections, etc) for the life of the car.

That being said, an older model car with a salvage title can be a great deal for someone with the know-how and patience to work out the problems with it. Older cars tend to not be as difficult or complicated to work on, and (as we said before) an older model car has a lower book value, meaning it would take a lower damage estimate for an insurer to call it a total. The downside of this is that a car over 15 years old may be harder to find parts for.

Salvage yard parts can be fine for a rebuild job, unless you want to spend the extra money on new parts; remember, though, that discount-price parts from a parts store may not be as good a quality as original parts.

If you're going to bid on a wrecked salvage car at auction with the intention of rebuilding it, just remember:

  • You'll be bidding against restorers and dealers who make a living from buying wrecked salvage cars, rebuilding them and selling them. Don't get carried away and spend more than you can afford at auction.
  • Inspect the car as carefully as possible before the bids start. Be mindful of any problems that could mean an unsafe car or a car that would be too costly to repair.
  • Think about how much you're willing to spend, and how much time and effort you can afford to put into the car to make it drivable. When in doubt, have a mechanic check out the listing with you.