Salvaged Vehicles in Washington

When your car becomes so damaged it’s uneconomical to repair, you have a salvaged car (or “total loss”) on your hands. Now what?

Follow along as we go over the Washington Department of Licensing’s (DOL) regulations and options when it comes to sorting out a salvaged vehicle.

What Is a Salvaged Car in WA?

Washington defines a salvage car as one that has been wrecked, damaged, or otherwise destroyed to the point that it would be uneconomical to repair. Often, this means the repair costs would exceed the car’s actual cash value.

Market Value Threshold

Washington’s definition of a salvaged car DOES NOT apply to vehicles with a model year of 5 years old or newer UNLESS it meets the market value threshold, meaning:

  • It’s between 6 and 20 years old;
  • It’s a passenger vehicle, light-duty truck, or sport utility vehicle; AND
  • The retail value before the damage was at least $10,430.

If your car doesn’t meet the market value threshold, contact the WA DOL at (360) 902-3770 for help.

First Steps with a Salvage Vehicle

As a self-insurer who declared your car salvaged, your next step is to report the vehicle’s salvage status to the WA Department of Licensing—skip down to “Reporting a Salvage to the DOL” for instructions. 

If you’re a policyholder and your insurance company determines your car meets the salvage criteria after a total loss claim, you can either: 

  • Sign the car over to your insurance provider and take a full settlement.
    • Besides providing proof of lien satisfaction (if applicable), the vehicle is no longer your responsibility.
  • Keep the car and take a partial settlement from your insurance carrier.

Reporting a Salvage to the DOL

Once a car is deemed a total loss, a report must be filed with the Washington DOL. The deadline to report the salvage differs depending on if you’re the:

  • Registered owner of the vehicle: Within 15 days of the damage occurring.
  • Insurance company OR self-insurer: Within 15 days of the insurance settlement claim.  

To report a car’s salvage status*, you must submit:

  • The car title, with “DESTROYED” and the date the car was salvaged written on the face of the title.
  • A statement on whether the car meets the state’s market value threshold IF the car was 6 model years old or older when the damage occurred.

Mail the above items to the DOL (within the deadlines outlined above) at:

Department of Licensing
P.O. Box 9038
Olympia, WA 98501

Once the DOL receives the title and statement (if applicable), your car will be filed as a salvaged vehicle.

*NOTE: Insurance providers and self-insurers can also report a salvage using the DOL’s online reporting system for insurers OR by mailing the total loss claim settlement form to the address above. Call the WA Department of Licensing at (360) 902-3770 for details.

Selling a Salvaged Car in WA

When you sell a salvaged car in Washington, you may choose to sell it for parts OR as a whole. We’ll go over the requirements for each option.

If you choose to keep the car, rebuild it, and retain ownership thereafter, skip down to our instructions on applying for a rebuilt title.

Sell for Parts

When you sell a salvaged vehicle for parts, you must provide the buyer with a notarized bill of sale for EACH part. Bills of sale must include:

  • A description of the part.
  • The vehicle identification number (VIN).
  • The name of the last registered owner.

After selling the parts of your choosing, you can sell the rest of the car by providing a notarized bill of sale with the vehicle’s description (such as make, model, and year) and VIN to the purchaser.

Sell the Whole Car

When you sell the whole car, you must provide the buyer with:

  • An Insurance Destroyed Vehicle Options (Form TD-420-080).
    • This sheet includes instructions for the buyer, including the buyer’s responsibility to make an appointment with the Washington State Patrol for a rebuilt salvage vehicle inspection if the buyer rebuilds and wants to retitle the car.
  • A Notice of Cancellation letter.*
    • Call the DOL at (360) 902-3770 for instructions on obtaining this letter.
  • A notarized bill of sale.
  • An odometer disclosure statement IF the car is fewer than 10 years old.

*You must notify the WA DOL of the sale within 5 days of selling the car. If you have further questions about selling your salvaged vehicle, call the Department of Licensing at (360) 902-3770.

Rebuilt Title Application

Once you rebuild the car, you can apply for a title branded “WA REBUILT.” Generally, you’ll follow the same steps as applying for a regular Washington title. Be sure to call the Washington DOL at (360) 902-3770 to confirm you have all the required paperwork before making application for a rebuilt title.

NOTE: You DO NOT need to take your vehicle in for a salvaged inspection to retitle the car AS LONG AS you are the original owner (i.e. did not buy the car as a salvage).

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