Telltale Signs of a Salvaged Vehicle

Date posted: 06/27/2012

by Nadia Ibanez on
in Registration & Titling

1121 Telltale Signs of a Salvaged Vehicle

Unfortunately, from a car-buying standpoint, cosmetic repairs sometimes make it difficult to spot a vehicle that’s suffered severe fire, flood, accident, or storm damage.

By law, the vehicle should be branded as a salvaged vehicle, but some unscrupulous sellers disguise their salvaged cars’ damage with superficial repairs so they can increase the resale value.

Fortunately, however, there are ways for you, the buyer, to protect yourself against unknowingly buying a salvaged vehicle.

Protect Yourself Against Salvaged Autos

Not all salvaged vehicles are bad, but you shouldn’t be tricked into buying one.

Below are a few tips to help you determine whether the car you’re considering is on the up and up.

1. Order a Vehicle History Report

Ordering a vehicle history report is one of the most reliable ways to learn about a car’s past. These documents disclose the car’s full history, including ownership changes, accident reports, and service records.

The information on vehicle history reports comes from:

  • Salvage auto auctions.
  • State DMVs.
  • Insurance companies.
  • Car manufacturers.
  • Police and fire departments.
  • Car dealerships, especially used car dealer.
  • Car rental companies.

NOTE: You will need the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to gain access to the car’s history.

2. Study the Car Title

Next, take a look at the car’s title. By law all salvaged vehicles require a salvaged stamp on the title. In most cases this will be the word “Salvage” stamped in large red or blue letters.

3. Have a Certified Mechanic Inspect the Vehicle

A car mechanic’s trained eye can detect hidden damages.

For instance, a cracked or bent frame (which is fairly common with salvaged vehicles) is generally a telltale sign that the vehicle suffered, at one point, major structural damage. It’s also a flaw that can be easily hidden. Consequently, if undetected, it could result in major repair costs for you.

4. Look for Flood Damage

If you detect any of the following signs, chances are strong the vehicle was damaged in a flood:

  • Musty odors.
  • Carpet dampness under the seats.
  • Dark lines on seats (a fabric’s version of a high water mark).
  • Rust in the trunk.
  • New dashboard instrumentation.

Do you have any experience with salvage cars? What extra advice can you offer?

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About Nadia Ibanez

Since 2006, San Diego resident Nadia Ibanez has inspired others with her words. She has created content and edited copy for luxury print magazines and digital business magazines. She has written about multi-million dollar homes, local artisans, music festivals, travel destinations, health and wellness, and so much more. She has interviewed CEOs of major enterprises and has covered breaking news stories in American technology, social media, retail, hospitality, food, among others. More articles by Nadia Ibanez

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