What Is a Salvage Title on a Motorcycle?

by Chris Gilliland

A motorcycle with a "salvage title" has been damaged in some way and purchased by an insurance company as a "total loss." In some states, salvage-titled vehicles may be repaired and after passing an inspection, may apply for a "Rebuilt" or "Clean" title.


A salvage title (or certificate) is a document issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles that denotes that a motorcycle has suffered an extensive amount of damage, either by an accident or act of nature. In many cases, a salvage motorcycle may be repaired and be the starting point for a project bike.

What Qualifies?

After an accident, the owner's insurance company will send an adjuster to evaluate the cost of repairs against the value of the vehicle. Generally, if the repair costs exceed 80 percent of the value, the vehicle will be claimed a total loss. Once the claim is paid, the vehicle is purchased by the insurance company and the title is transferred to a salvage title by the DMV.


A salvaged bike can be a excellent buy, but give the motorcycle a careful inspection. While some damage may be superficial, such as body work or brackets, other problems may be concealed. A few things to watch for are cracks in the frame and abused transmissions.

Clearing Title

First, check the requirements needed with your state's DMV. Some states, such as California, will not clear a salvage title. Once the bike is repaired you will need to pass an inspection and, after meeting all state necessities, you can apply for a rebuilt title.

Research Purchase.

Do your research before buying a salvage bike. If possible, order a vehicle history report for an accurate report of the damage incurred on the vehicle. If purchasing from a private party, you may want to consult the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) website to ensure that the vehicle wasn't stolen.

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