Salvaged Vehicles in Pennsylvania

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Collisions, floods, theft—they can all leave you with a salvaged car, or what the insurance business calls a total loss. You can’t legally drive a salvaged car (even if it still starts!), but the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has a few ways for you to deal with it.

What Is a Salvaged Car in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, a salvaged car is one that’s so damaged it would cost more to repair than the car’s worth immediately before the damage occurred (i.e. its fair market value). Generally, your insurance provider determines whether your car is a salvage, also referred to as a “total loss.”

Total Loss Settlements

When your car becomes severely damaged, typically your first step is to file a total loss claim with your insurance company.  If your company determines the car is indeed a total loss, you’ll choose between accepting a:

  • Full settlement, in which:
    • Your insurance carrier pays you in full for damages, less any deductibles or financial reductions per the company’s policies and your insurance plan.
    • You sign over the car title to your insurance company (after satisfying any liens*, if applicable) and the vehicle is now your provider’s responsibility.
    OR
  • Partial settlement, in which:
    • You keep ownership of the vehicle and can decide whether you’d like to:
    • Your provider pays you for partial damages and will give you a buy-back/retention letter as proof.

Make sure you take some time to speak with your auto insurance agent about the implications of accepting a full settlement versus a partial settlement. Each option has its own benefits and setbacks, but your individual circumstances will ultimately determine which choice is right for you.

*NOTE: If there’s a lien on your total loss vehicle, you MIGHT have to pay the difference between the vehicle’s fair market value and the amount you still owe on the car. Generally, the only kind of insurance that covers the difference for you is Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) coverage—speak with your insurance provider on whether GAP coverage is right for you. 

Apply for a PA Salvaged Title

When you apply for a salvage title, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation requires the following:

Note that Pennsylvania salvage titles are free UNLESS the car has an out-of-state title assigned to someone with a PA residence who is assigning ownership to another PA resident—if that’s the case, the fee is $53. 

Deliver the required items above:

  • In person to your local PennDOT office.
    OR
  • By mail to:
    • Bureau of Motor Vehicles
    • 1101 South Front St.
    • Harrisburg, PA 17104

With a salvage title in hand, you can start repairing your totaled vehicle and prepare it for PA’s required safety inspection. Once the car passes inspection, you’ll be on your way to getting it back on the road!

If you have questions about applying for a PA salvage title, give PennDOT a call at (717) 412-5300 for assistance.

Nonrepairable Titles

For a nonrepairable vehicle, you can use the above application to apply for an original nonrepairable certificate.

Note that once the car has a nonrepairable certificate, you can use it ONLY for a source of scraps or parts and the vehicle IS NOT eligible for a salvage certificate.

Reconstructed Car Inspections in PA

Once you’ve repaired your salvaged car to meet state requirements, it’s time for an enhanced safety inspection.

When your car is fully repaired, head to a state-approved enhanced safety inspection station and provide:

  • A completed Application for Reconstructed, Specially Constructed, Collectible, Modified, Flood, Recovered Theft Vehicles and Street Rods (Form MV-426B).
    • Currently, the updated (and correct) version of this form is ONLY available in person from your local PennDOT office OR may be available at the inspection station—call ahead to confirm. The online PennDOT form is outdated.
    • The safety inspector will need to complete part of this form.
  • The salvage certificate of title.
    • If the title isn’t assigned in your name, you must ALSO submit a completed Application for Certificate of Title (Form MV-1), which is ONLY available for pick-up at your local PennDOT agency.
  • Copies of the receipts for all the parts and/or services used to repair the vehicle.
  • Proof of the proper auto insurance.
  • Payment for the applicable fees, which vary by inspection station—call ahead for specifics on what you’ll owe.

Once your car passes, the inspector will take photographs of the vehicle. You need these to apply for a reconstructed title, so don’t lose them!

Follow-Up Safety & Emissions Inspections

After you re-title and register your reconstructed car, you’ll need to bring it in for periodic safety inspections and, if applicable, emission checks. However, you won’t have to go to enhanced safety inspection stations for these follow-ups and can choose from any of the state-approved inspection stations in Pennsylvania.

The PA Department of Transportation will inform you when your car needs another inspection.

Apply for a Reconstructed Car Title

Make your application for a PA reconstructed title with one of PennDOT’s Online Business Partners, to whom you’ll need to submit:

  • A completed:
  • The salvage title.
    • If the salvage title isn’t in your name, you must ALSO include:
      • An Application for Certificate of Title (Form MV-1)—this form is ONLY available at PennDOT offices.
      • A bill of sale for the vehicle.
  • Photographs of the car (from the enhanced safety inspector).
  • The buy-back/retention letter from your insurance provider, stating you retained ownership of the totaled car and accepted a partial settlement.
  • Copies of receipts for the services and/or parts used to repair the car.
  • IF your car needs a replacement VIN plate, a completed
  • Payment for the applicable fees, which could include:
    • PA reconstructed title: $53.
    • Registration and license plates: $79.
    • Sales tax (if applicable): 6% of the purchase price.
    • County taxes: Vary—call the Online Business Partner ahead of time for specifics on what you’ll owe.

When everything’s said and done, you’ll have a PA reconstructed title in hand and wheels back on the road! 

The process of applying for a reconstructed title with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has a lot of moving parts. Understandably, it may become overwhelming at times. Don’t hesitate to call PennDOT at (717) 412-5300 with any questions you may have.

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