Tips for Buying or Selling a Salvage Vehicle

By: Staff Writer June 27, 2012
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Whether you're buying or selling a salvage vehicle, the bottom line is that you're dealing with damaged goods.

From a selling standpoint, it's your responsibility to make any prospective buyer aware of the vehicle's salvage status, and from a buyer's standpoint, it's your responsibility to know what you're investing money in.

Selling a Salvaged Vehicle

Before attempting to sell a salvaged auto, read up on your state's salvaged auto requirements.

Some states are more stringent than others. Utah, for example, requires all sellers to provide written notice alerting any prospective buyer or lien holder of the vehicle's branded title status before the start of price discussions.

Concealing a vehicle's salvage status is considered a misdemeanor punishable by fines in most states. To make sure you fully understand all your legal responsibilities, you might also want to contact your Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Buying a Salvage Car

Use extreme caution. Don't decide by looks alone. Protect yourself by having the car inspected by a certified mechanic. The mechanic will pay close attention to:

  • Checking the vehicle's frame for cracks and possible metal fatigue.
  • Making sure all the vehicle's air bags were replaced and are fully functioning.
  • Making sure the salvage auto's seatbelt pretensioners lock properly.
  • Estimating potential repairs. This is extremely important. Why buy a rebuilt, used car that's rebuilt for $2,000 when you may need to add $4,000 in repairs?

Other things to consider before buying:

  • Car insurance. Some auto insurance companies won't cover vehicles with branded titles. Those that do generally charge high premiums. Contact your car insurance agent for a quote.
  • Many banks will not finance salvaged vehicles. Special conditions may apply including shorter terms.
  • The vehicle will have little or no resale value.
  • How do you intend on using the vehicle? Think twice if you plan on using the car for everyday driving. Or, at the very least, be in the financial position to afford unexpected car repairs.

Also, take the time to order a vehicle history report. Even though the car was rebuilt, the history report will detail what caused the vehicle to be declared salvage - car accident, flooding, vandalism. This knowledge may not provide you with piece of mind, but it will, at the very least, reveal if you're dealing with an honest seller.

Have you ever bought or sold a salvaged vehicle? Share additional tips with us in the comments below!

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