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Unread 09-07-2013, 08:59 PM   #1
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Default Buying a car with salvage title

I've been searching online and asking around (coworkers / friends) but it generally seems that most people don't know much about this topic and tend to speculate a lot or give contradictory statements to what dmv website says.

I live in California and I've been thinking of buying a car with salvage title that has been fully repaired.
There are a bunch of those on craigslist that look great even though they have salvage title and are like 30% cheaper than identical cars with clean title.

Now, dmv website says that one is not allowed to drive a car that has salvage title on public streets.
What does it actually mean? If I am not allowed to drive that car, how can I buy it ?
Should I get a tow truck and tow it to dmv for inspection even though the car is completely repaired ?
What is the procedure of buying such a car?

When I was talking to one of the sellers who was selling a car with salvage title he said that you can register that car the same way you can register any car (with clean title) without any problems in dmv since it has been fully restored.
That created even more confusion.

Dmv website clearly states that to register a car with salvage title one needs (
-An Application for Title or Registration (REG 343) form (PDF)
-Proof of ownership
-A Verification of Vehicle (REG 31) form or CHP inspection certificate
-Brake and light adjustment certificates
-Appropriate fees
and a bunch of other stuff.

Was he lying to me or is there multiple levels of salvage titles, ones that can be registered and ones that cannot ?

I'm looking for answers from people who know about this topic. Please don't speculate if you dont know for sure or have heard from a friend or something like that.


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Unread 09-07-2013, 10:39 PM   #2
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If you don't know EXACTLY and SPECIFICALLY what you're getting yourself into by buying a salvage title car, then you shouldn't be buying a salvage title car. Yes, it may look good, yes it may be cheaper, but it also is very likely it has permanent frame/unibody damage that has been mostly repaired. There is a quite good chance you will spend the rest of the car's life trying to get it aligned right and finding other things that aren't quite right.

If you're really serious, you NEED to have a mechanic put it on a lift and inspect it fully before diving into a salvage title.

I don't know about California but in Minnesota there's salvage titles and REPAIRED salvage titles. Once repaired and inspected by the state to prove it is road worthy, you can drive it or sell it or do whatever you wish. A regular salvage title you cannot.
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Unread 09-08-2013, 01:11 PM   #3
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Illinois has rebuilt versus salvage titles as well. I test drove a rebuilt s40 t5. Damn thing was a death trap. Do not buy a salvage title vehicle from a "dealer". EVER.
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Unread 09-09-2013, 11:37 AM   #4
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AZ has Restored Salvage titles.

A salvage title car needs to pass a minimum of a level 3 MVD inspection before they can declare it an R/S title.

Levels 2 and 1 I'm not so sure about, however, a level 3 requires the car to drive, and have all matching VINs/badges.

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Unread 02-03-2014, 05:49 AM   #5
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There isn't a definite answer for this question. It depends on how comfortable you are in buying a car with mutable past.Salvage car can be a good option for the first time buyer with low budget or in need of vehicle. So identify the cause of salvage title and then decide whether to go for it or not. You can get more information in this article.

Last edited by boulstridgejones; 02-07-2014 at 07:39 AM. Reason: grammatical error

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Unread 02-03-2014, 04:34 PM   #6
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^^ I don't know about your laws but here the registration is separate from the title. Once you have the title, salvage in this case, you get it inspected and if/when it passes you are granted a registration, with a salvage title.

I do not recommend anyone to buy a vehicle with a salvage title. One of my customers bought an '01 Civic from his friend who owns a new car dealership. The car had a persistent damp floor for years. I looked at it several times and discovered that the firewall had been pieced together behind the dash and the seam was never sealed completely. I sealed what I could from under the dash and it seamed OK for a year and began to leak again. After a good rain he had 3" of water on the passenger floor. He took it back to a Honda dealer and they had the car for 2 weeks. The had to pull the dash and carpets out and weld and seal the seam, dry out the carpets.

So the $2000 he saved by buying a salvage title car cost him mold and smelly carpets and over $3000 to repair. And now when he goes to sell it, it won't be worth near what it would have been if he had bought a clear title car to begin with.

Another customer with a late '90s salvage title Civic developed a random stalling and hard starting. After many attempts to experience the symptoms, and all scans and tests looked normal it was later found that the repair of the car resulted in the engine harness behind the engine being patched instead of repaired. After a few years the "patched" wires corroded ad cause problems.

I always find water and wind noise an ill fitting doors and more on salvaged cars.
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