Salvaged Vehicles in California

SNAPSHOT: How to Register a CA Salvaged Vehicle
  • Apply for a Salvage Certificate.
  • Complete an Application for Title or Registration (REG 343).
  • Have the vehicle inspected by the DMV or CHP.
  • Gather the appropriate paperwork and proof of ownership for your vehicle type (see below).
  • Pay the $54 inspection fee, prior history fee, and title/registration fees.

For specific details and forms related to your vehicle, keep reading!

Driving a salvaged vehicle is like giving a car a second chance. But just like any successful comeback, it takes a lot of work to pull off.

There are a number of procedures you must follow to get your salvaged car up and legally running in California. Keep on reading for more information.

What Is a Salvaged Vehicle?

First thing's first: What, exactly, is a salvaged car?

There are several different types of salvaged vehicle as defined by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), including:

  • Salvaged car—One which has “been wrecked or damaged to such an extent that it is considered too expensive to repair."
  • Revived salvage—“A salvage vehicle which has been repaired and registered with DMV."
  • Junk car — A car that has been reported to the DMV as being dismantled by the owner or professional dismantler.

While the official definitions are slightly different, the process to reregister and title a junked car is similar to titling and reregistering a salvaged car. Any differences will be explained below.

Your insurance company will likely inform you when your vehicle is considered in one of the above conditions, or you can contact your local CA DMV office for more information.

CA Salvage Certificate

Once a total loss settlement has been agreed upon, the insurance company (or its representative Salvage Pool) or the owner of car must apply for Salvage Certificate within 10 days.

To apply for a Salvage Certificate, submit the following to the DMV:

  • A completed Application for Salvage Certificate or Nonrepairable Vehicle Certificate (Form Reg 488C).
  • Proof of ownership with a properly endorsed:
  • Any available bills of sale.
  • Odometer disclosure (if there is no room on the title certificate).
  • License plates.
    • If you don't have them, provide an explanation on the application.
  • Vehicle verification, IF the title is from out of state.
  • Payment for the $27 Salvage Certificate fee.

NOTE: The Salvage Certificate can only be assigned to the insurance company of the owner or the car. Transfer of ownership can be executed on the Salvage Certificate once received.

Registering a Salvaged Car in CA

To register a salvaged car in CA, you will need ALL of the following:

  • A completed Application for Title or Registration (Form REG 343), signed by all owners.
    • Incorporate the cost of labor into the vehicle cost—even if the labor was performed by you.
  • Proof of vehicle ownership, to include:
  • EITHER a completed:
    • Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment (Form REG 262), IF you need to submit an odometer reading.
      • Pick this up at your DMV office.
  • A vehicle inspection performed by either:
    • The California DMV, using a Verification of Vehicle (Form REG 31).
    • The California Highway Patrol (CHP), using a CHP Certification of Inspection (Form CHP 97C).
  • An official Brake and Light Adjustment Certificate from a licensed repair shop. See below for more information.
  • The appropriate fees (listed below).

If you're re-registering a junked car, you'll need:

Check out the California DMV's guide to re-registering junked cars for more details.

Salvage Vehicle Inspections

Getting your salvaged car inspected is a mandatory part of reviving your vehicle for use in California.

You'll have to make an appointment with either your local Department of Motor Vehicles office or a California Highway Patrol station.

While there, make sure to bring:

  • Proof of ownership of the vehicle. (See above for acceptable documents.)
  • The bill of sale, if relevant.
  • Receipts for any repairs done on the car.
  • The $54 inspection fee.

You will also need to obtain an official Brake and Light Adjustment Certificate from a state-licensed repair shop. Specific vehicles, such as motorcycles and large commercial vehicles, may require a certificate from a specialty repair shop. Contact your local California DMV office for more information.

Junk Cars

If you want to junk or dismantle your car in California, you'll have to visit your local DMV office and make sure to bring the vehicle's:

  • Certificate of Title, which must be either:
    • In your name.
    • Endorsed for transfer of ownership to you.
  • License plates.

You may also have to pay additional fees if the car is NOT either:

Contact your local CA DMV office for more information.

Reregistering Junked Cars

If you're reregistering a junked car, you'll need to provide:

Check out the California DMV's page on reregistering junked cars for more details.

California Salvaged Car Fees

You may save money when purchasing a salvaged car, but bringing it back up to legal speed doesn't come cheap.

Fees to reregister a salvaged car in California may include but are NOT limited to:

  • Salvage vehicle inspection: $54.
  • Salvage Certificate: $27.
  • Registration: $74.
  • Duplicate title: $27.
  • California Highway Patrol fee: $32.
  • Record collection fee: $2.

You may ALSO be responsible for paying fees related to your vehicle's:

You can check out the CA Department of Motor Vehicles website or contact your local California DMV office for more information.


REG 227
Application For Duplicate or Paperless Title
Complete this form to request a duplicate CA title OR paperless title, which you can use while transferring ownership of a vehicle.
REG 343
Application for Title or Registration
Use this form to apply for a title and register your vehicle when you buy a vehicle or move to the state.
REG 260
Power of Attorney
Grants power of attorney for someone to sell a vehicle on your behalf in CA.
REG 135
Bill of Sale
Bill of sale serves as receipt and proof of purchase for private vehicle transactions in California.
REG 256
Statement of Facts
You can use this form to provide additional information for other California DMV forms OR to correct information on existing CA DMV documents.
REG 262
Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment Form
Combination form for odometer disclosure, bill of sale, and power of attorney. Not available online. You must contact the California DMV for a copy.
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