Salvaged Vehicles in Rhode Island

When your insurance company declares your vehicle a salvaged car or a total loss, you might feel like you have a hunk of junk on your hands. Fortunately, the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) provides several options for handling that salvaged vehicle, and you might even find it’s not a total loss after all.

What Is a Salvaged Car in RI?

 Generally, a Rhode Island salvaged car, or total loss, is one that is so damaged it would cost significantly more to repair the vehicle than the car’s fair market value.

If the repair costs are less than 75% of the vehicle’s fair market value, the car IS NOT considered a total loss UNLESS you (the owner) request a total loss designation from your insurance carrier.

It will ultimately be up to your insurance provider to determine the car’s fair market value and evaluate the cost of repairs. Make sure to speak with your auto insurance agent about any questions you have regarding a vehicle’s total loss status. 

Total Loss Claims in Rhode Island

USUALLY, the first step to handling a salvaged car is filing a total loss claim with your insurance provider. Your insurance company will determine whether your car is a total loss and, if it is, you’ll receive a total loss settlement.

Note that total loss settlements also vary by company, but generally when a company decides a vehicle is a total loss—that the cost to repair just isn’t economically sensible given the car’s fair market value—the company will pay you the car’s worth.

This payment is yet another variable; your carrier could pay you:

  • The full amount for damages and keep the vehicle.
  • A partial amount of the damages and let you keep the vehicle.

So, what happens next if you decide to take a partial payment and keep your salvaged car? We’ll go over that next. 

Keeping a Salvage Car in RI

 If you accept partial payment from your insurance company and choose to keep your salvaged car, there are a few different options you have for dealing with the total loss.

You can:

  • Sell it for parts to a scrapyard or other type of vehicle dismantler.
    • We strongly recommend having the car’s bill of sale and registration handy when you go to sell it for parts.
  • Rebuild it to working condition—call the RI Division of Motor Vehicles at (401) 462-4368 for the requirements associated with repairing your older vehicle and getting it back on the road. 

If you have a newer vehicle (i.e. does not fall under the above criteria), you FIRST need to apply for a RI salvage title; then you can either:

If you decide to try and reconstruct your newer car to roadworthy conditions, keep reading for more on each step you need to complete along the way. 

Apply for a RI Salvaged Title

If you decide to keep the total loss car, you must apply for a salvage title within 10 days of the settlement agreement. To do so, submit the following items to the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles:

  • A completed Application for Title (Form TR-2/TR-9).
    • The vehicle’s owner (as listed on the car title) must complete the application.
  • The Rhode Island car title, which must include:
    • The proper assignment of vehicle ownership.
    • A disclosure of the car’s mileage.
    • Release of all liens on the vehicle.  
  • Letters from your insurance company stating:
    • The vehicle is a total loss and you’re keeping ownership.
    • Whether the vehicle is repairable OR for parts only.
    • A damage appraisal.
  • The $52.50 salvage title fee.
    • Take a look at the RI DMV’s fee schedule for potential service fees and acceptable payment methods.

You have the option of submitting the above items in person OR by mail to:

Division of Motor Vehicles
Research/Title Office
600 New London Ave.
Cranston, RI 02920

If you run into issues while putting together your salvage title application, give the Rhode Island DMV’s Research Office a call at (401) 462-5774.

Once you have your salvage title, you can sell the car to a business that deals with dismantling total loss vehicles (such as a junkyard or recycler) OR start thinking about retitling your vehicle for the roads again! If you go with the latter, you’ll first need to fulfill the RI Division of Motor Vehicles’ inspection requirements, which we’ll cover next.

RI Salvaged Car Inspections

If you opt to repair and retitle the car, you MUST take it to a state-licensed salvage rebuilder for the repairs. BEFORE the repairs begin, make sure to take pictures of the vehicle so the damage is well documented—you will need these photos for your salvage inspection.

Once the car is rebuilt, you’ll need to do all of the following: 

  • Take your car to your local police department for a VIN check.
    • At the end of your VIN check, the officer will give you a Vin Verification (Form TR-5)—do not lose this! You’ll need it to retitle your car.
  • Apply for a salvage inspection and then take your car in for inspection (once your application is approved)—we’ll go into the salvage inspection requirements below.
  • Take the vehicle for a smog check and safety inspection.
    • When you bring your vehicle in for the salvage inspection, it MUST have a new, valid Rhode Island inspection sticker attached.

As you can see, there are several steps you need to complete before you can apply for a reconstructed car title—take it in stride and you’ll be on your way to retitling that total loss in no time.  

Apply for a Salvage Inspection

To apply for a salvage inspection, submit the following to the RI Division of Motor Vehicles:

  • A completed and notarized Application for Salvage Inspection (REV 2020).
  • Copies of the:
    • Front and back of the car’s salvage title.
    • Receipts for all new and used parts used to repair the vehicle.
      • Receipts must include vehicle identification numbers (VINs) for each part used.
    • Insurance company’s damage appraisal.
    • Work repair order.
    • Bill of sale (helps prove ownership of the vehicle).
  • Pictures of the vehicle showing all the damage.
  • The Certificate of Salvage Repair and used parts VIN list, which the licensed rebuilder should provide you with.
  • The $57.50 inspection fee.
    • You must send a bank check (certified check) or money order made payable to “DMV.” No cash, personal checks, or business checks.

Mail everything to:

Division of Motor Vehicles
Enforcement Office
600 New London Ave.
Cranston, RI 02920

You’ll receive your inspection appointment information via the fax number you provided on the application.

The inspection application is no joke! If you have questions along the way, don’t hesitate to call the RI DMV’s Enforcement Office at (401) 462-5736.

At Your Inspection

Before you do anything, note that you will have to reapply for a new inspection appointment and pay another $56.50 fee if you:

  • Show up to the inspection without ALL the required paperwork.
    • This includes the new smog/safety inspection sticker you should have obtained PRIOR to your salvage inspection appointment.
  • Fail to show up or cancel your inspection within 48 hours of the appointment.
    • To cancel, call (401) 462-5736.
  • Are rejected for any other reason.

So, to avoid the headaches and hassle of having to restart the inspection process, make sure you’re fully prepared!

When your inspection appointment arrives, you will need to provide:

  • Your fully restored vehicle.
  • Your Rhode Island driver’s license or identification card.
  • The properly assigned salvaged title.
  • Pictures of the vehicle before any repairs.
  • Original paperwork of all the copies you sent when applying for your inspection (see above).  

If you have questions or want to confirm you have everything you need for your inspection, give the RI Division of Motor Vehicles’ Enforcement Office a call at (401) 462-5736.

Once your reconstructed car passes inspection, the inspector will give you the paperwork you need to move on to the re-titling and registration process. Now you’re just one step away from getting your car back out on the road! 

Apply for a RI Reconstructed Car Title

To apply for a reconstructed car title in Rhode Island, submit the following to the Division of Motor Vehicles:

  • A completed Application for Title (Form TR-2/TR-9).
  • The VIN Verification (Form TR-5) you received after your VIN check.
  • Any paperwork you received after your salvage inspection, proving your car passed.
  • Your valid Rhode Island driver’s license or identification card.
  • Applicable title and registration fees.
    • RI title: $52.50.
    • Check the state’s fee schedule for registration fees (which can vary) and acceptable methods of payment.

Submit the required items above in person OR by mail to:

Division of Motor Vehicles
Research/Title Office
600 New London Ave.
Cranston, RI 02920

If you need help putting together your application for a reconstructed vehicle title, contact the Rhode Island DMV’s Research/Title Office at (401) 462-5774. 

Once you have your reconstructed title, you can hit the Rhode Island roads!


Application for Title
Apply for an original, duplicate, corrected, OR salvage RI title with the DMV.
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