Interested in a Salvage Vehicle? What You Should Know

Interested in a Salvage Vehicle What You Should Know


There’s a lot to consider when buying a used car or one from a private party. Any time a car comes pre-owned, it’s important to be familiar with the vehicle’s history, something that’s not always easy to do. This is especially true with a salvage car that’s been in an accident or may be in need of repairs, since you run the risk of buying an unsafe vehicle that’s difficult to insure.

While the salvage vehicle designation would be a deal-breaker for many car buyers, others view them as an opportunity to score a deal and save on money. The title automatically raises some questions about its history, however, and there are a few factors to consider before investing in this type of vehicle.

The Car May Have Been Seriously Damaged

Salvage vehicles tend to be cheaper than the alternatives, making them an appealing option for folks short on cash who don’t mind a fixer upper. A salvage vehicle is an official designation indicating that it has been stolen, wrecked, destroyed by water, or otherwise damaged so much that the insurance company refuses to repair it. However, there’s a chance the damage was purely cosmetic. It may have gotten the designation after being involved in a crime. In the state of Arizona, the seller is legally required to tell you if you are purchasing a salvage vehicle.

Your Car Will Have a Salvage Title

Cars on the market come with a certificate of title that indicates who the legal owner is. If you buy a salvage car, it will instead be accompanied by a “Salvage” certificate of title. This typically indicates to you or any other potential owner that the amount it would have cost to repair it made it not worth repairing to the insurer. Owners of salvage vehicles may not be concerned about the title, but it will be a red flag to anyone you hope to sell it to in the future.

It May Have a Restore Salvage Title

If you want something economical but don’t want to sink a bunch of cash into repairing a damaged vehicle, look for one with a “Restore Salvage” title. Whether or not the car has been restored is an important distinction. If it’s been restored, it may be worth more and less likely to give you problems after you buy it.

Not only does the title indicate it’s been repaired or restored, but it guarantees that the car has been inspected for “roadworthiness” and will be ready for highway as soon as the keys are in your hands. If you want to apply for a restore salvage title, you’ll need to go through a process that includes completing a title application, making an appointment to have a Level III inspection conducted, and obtaining an emissions compliance certificate.

Do Your Own Research

Even a salvage car can be a significant investment. Due to its checkered past, it may be worth seeing what else you can find out about it before buying it. There are several ways to do a little homework on a car. The National Insurance Crime Bureau’s free VINCheck site provides helpful information about cars, such as whether they were stolen and never recovered and whether they have a salvage title.

For a fee, you can get a more detailed vehicle history report through a website like CarFax or AutoCheck, which may tell you:

  • Its accident history
  • Its service history
  • Whether it was used as a taxi or rental car
  • If its title indicates something concerning

It Must Be Inspected According to Arizona Law

The car can’t be registered until it passes certain certifications and inspections. Be sure any car you’re thinking about buying comes with the proper paperwork. If a car is used – and especially if it has been salvaged – you’ll want to know its inspection history before agreeing to buy it. If it doesn’t pass the necessary inspections you’ll need to make repairs before it can be registered.

According to state law, restored salvage vehicles must pass a Level III inspection, which shows that the car has been inspected by a certified ADOT (Arizona Department of Transportation) officer. This process verifies that major parts like the front end assembly, engine, transmission, and rear end assembly are in good enough condition for highway use. Contact ADOT with any questions you have about what type of inspection the car you’re considering should have.

Talk to an Auto Insurance Provider

Because salvage cars are typically deemed riskier to insure, call your insurer to find out what insuring one will mean for you. At minimum, liability coverage is required in Arizona. The cost and availability of insurance could sway your decision to invest in one. Some insurers will limit coverage types they will provide and may refuse to cover your car at all.

Contact AZ Auto for a free quote today. Once you have your new set of wheels, we’ll take care of all your auto needs.