How to Get a Salvage Title

by Scott Krohn
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In most states, after a vehicle has been written off by an insurance company due to damage that cannot be repaired cost effectively, a salvage certificate will be issued by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. This designation prevents the vehicle from being registered and makes it illegal for the car to be driven. With these restrictions in place, getting the car back on the road again requires repairs and passing a state-administered inspection.

Start With the Original Estimate of Damage

Cars can be tagged with a salvage designation for damage resulting from an accident, vandalism, flooding or theft. At this point the insurance company will either sell the car to be disassembled for parts or taken to auction to be sold to a buyer who plans to restore it. Before being able to register the car with a rebuilt salvage title, the buyer will need to repair the damage that was listed in the insurance company’s original estimate, which was the basis for totaling the vehicle. The process of repairing the vehicle to the condition necessary to pass the state inspection starts with getting a copy of this estimate.

Doing the Repairs

The original damage estimate will serve as a “work order” for the first round of repairs, but a mechanic should also run a full inspection of the vehicle to see what else needs to be done to get the vehicle back on the road. These repairs may not be necessary to pass the state inspection, but they can provide assurance to the inspector that the sum of the work done on the vehicle exceeds the standards required to have the title upgraded to rebuilt or revived salvage.

Prepare the Documents Required for the Inspection

Generally speaking, most state inspections require the original damage estimate, receipts for the repairs that were done and documentation of parts that were used in the repair. The inspection of replacement parts is done to determine whether any of the components used in the rebuilding of the vehicle were stolen, so all receipts should clearly state where the parts were purchased. Each state has its own protocols for documentation, which are normally listed on each DMV site. The vehicle owner should take the time to research the necessary paperwork, as some states require the testing and certification of specific systems on the vehicle before the inspection.

Passing the Inspection

The state inspections that are required to get a salvage title are an important part of the Anti Car Theft Act of 1992, which was passed to crack down on auto theft. Submitting receipts for all replacement parts will be a key aspect in passing this phase of the inspection. If all areas that were indicated as being damaged in the insurance company’s report have been repaired and no stolen parts were used in the rebuilding process, the vehicle can pass the inspection and be upgraded to a rebuilt salvage certificate of title.

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