What Is a Salvage Title in Texas?

by Michelle NatiUpdated September 23, 2022
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A vehicle with a salvage title is one that has been damaged to such a degree that fixing it would cost more than the car’s pre-damage value. A salvage title also allows a person interested in buying a vehicle to learn about its history before making a purchase.

What Is a Salvage Title in Texas?

Vehicles with a Texas salvage title are those that were damaged and now have a repair cost, including labor and materials, that exceeds their worth prior to the damage. This determination is typically made by an insurance company. In Texas, only those with a salvage title dealer license can legally dismantle, refurbish or sell a vehicle under this classification.

All salvage-titled vehicles have a salvage title certificate, so everyone knows the vehicle’s history. A salvaged vehicle must be reconditioned to meet Texas Department of Public Safety standards, and its title must be reissued as “Rebuilt Salvage — Damaged” to be driven legally.

If it is not reconditioned, it is only eligible for a salvage title, a non-repairable title or disposal. The owner has to apply for a salvage title before transferring the salvaged vehicle to another party using a form VTR-441.

Types of Texas Salvage Titles

A National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) vehicle history report lists salvaged brand classifications. They are:

  • Fire damage​: The vehicle incurred damage from fire.
  • Owner-retained​: An insurance company has deemed the vehicle a total loss, but the individual still maintains ownership and possession of it.
  • Salvage retention​: The NMVTIS has branded the vehicle as salvage and it has been kept by the owner.
  • Salvage — stolen​: An insurance claim is paid on a vehicle reported as stolen.
  • Salvage — damage or not specified​: This describes a car that has been damaged, destroyed or wrecked, and its repair cost, including labor and materials, exceeds a specific percentage of its retail value as defined by its reporting jurisdiction. This also includes any vehicle that has been acquired by an insurance company or one with an owner who wishes to designate it as salvage.

The NMVTIS also lists “Salvage — reasons other than damage or stolen” as a classification, which describes vehicles considered salvage for other reasons than those in the description. This may include vehicles that were abandoned, towed away by law enforcement and never claimed by the owner.

Salvage Title Texas Colors

Texans do not legally own a vehicle until a title transfer occurs from the previous owner to the new one. Individuals buying a car from a private seller may not know what the color codes on a Texas title mean. For example:

  • Orange​: This means the vehicle is non-repairable and cannot be rebuilt. An owner cannot resell a vehicle with an orange title.
  • Purple​: This describes a salvage-titled vehicle with damage from an accident, fire or flood that has yet to be repaired.
  • Brown​: A brown title is for those who have requested a replacement title after losing their original. However, brown titles are also issued to rebuilt vehicles with a salvage title that have passed a DMV inspection.

If a vehicle owner has a ​blue​ title, it is a clean car. This means it has never been rebuilt or had its titles replaced.

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