Salvaged Vehicles in Washington DC

Do you have a vehicle that’s so damaged it doesn’t make financial sense to repair it? Sounds like you might have a salvaged car (also known as a “total loss”). But don’t fret! We’ll go over the Washington D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles’ (DMV) options when it comes to dealing with a salvage, maybe even turning that total loss around.

What Is a Salvaged Car in D.C.?

In Washington, D.C., a salvaged car is defined as one that’s been destroyed, wrecked, or submerged in water, resulting in damages that would cost more than 75% of the car’s retail value (just before the damage occurred) to repair

Generally, your auto insurance provider will determine whether or not your vehicle meets the salvage criteria.

Total Loss Claims

When your car’s been seriously damaged, the first step is to file a total loss claim with your insurance company. Each company has its own procedures, but typically upon determining your car meets the salvage repair cost threshold, your provider will offer you a total loss settlement, in which you can choose to accept a:

  • Full settlement, in which:
    • You receive full compensation (minus any deductibles) from your insurance carrier.
    • Your provider keeps the car and it’s no longer your responsibility, UNLESS there’s a lienholder on the title—see “Salvaged Cars & Lienholders” below for details.
  • Partial settlement, in which:
    • You take a partial payment (minus any deductibles) from your insurance company.
    • You or your lienholder keep the car and apply for a salvage title.
      • See “Salvaged Cars & Lienholders” below for more on salvaged vehicle proceedings involving lienholders.
      • Your insurance company must notify you or your lienholder (if applicable) about your obligation to apply for a salvage title within 30 days of the settlement.

If you DON’T have a lienholder and choose to keep the car, skip down to our section on applying for a D.C. salvaged title for next steps. 

Salvaged Cars & Lienholders

The Washington, D.C. DMV requires the following when a lienholder is on the title for a car that qualifies as a salvage:

  • If your insurance company does not keep the vehicle, your provider must notify your lienholder of their responsibility to apply for a salvage title within 30 days of the settlement.  
  • You must inform your lienholder of the damages to the vehicle within 30 days of the date the damages occurred.
    • You CANNOT make any repairs to the car until your lienholder obtains a salvage title and gives you the green light.
  • Your lienholder must apply for a salvage title within 30 days of receiving notification of the car’s damages.

Essentially, if there’s a lienholder on the total loss vehicle, the lienholder must obtain a D.C. salvaged title (within the time parameters above) BEFORE you, the lessee, can repair the car to working condition. Make sure to confer with your insurance company about notifying the right people in a timely manner.

Apply for a D.C. Salvaged Title

If you keep a salvaged car following a total loss claim and are its sole owner, you must apply for a DC salvaged title within 30 calendar days of the settlement and BEFORE you begin making any repairs to the vehicle.

Applying for a salvage title in D.C. is similar to applying for any other car title, though you MIGHT need some additional paperwork. Be prepared to provide your D.C. DMV service center with:

  • A completed Certificate of Title/Temporary Registration and Tag Application (Form DMV-CTA-001), with the “Salvage Title” box checked.
  • Proof of identity.
  • The original title with the vehicle’s odometer reading.
  • Any paperwork from your:
    • Insurance company declaring the car a total loss—talk to your provider for specifics.
    • Lienholder stating you’ve satisfied your lien (if applicable).
  • Payment for the $26 title fee.

A DMV agent will advise you on when you’ll receive your salvage title (see a sample). If you need help applying for your salvage title, call the Washington, D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles at (202) 737-4404 for assistance.

Reconstructed Car Inspections

After you or a repairman rebuild your car and before you can apply for a rebuilt title and registration, your car must pass a smog and safety check AND an anti-theft inspection.

NOTE: Contact the D.C. DMV at (202) 737-4404 for information about how to legally transport your car to the inspection sites.

Smog Check & Safety Inspection

First, you’ll need to take your rebuilt vehicle to the DMV Inspection Station for a smog check and safety inspection. You can make an appointment online to speed things along.

Before heading out, call the DMV at (202) 737-4404 to find out which documents and fees you’ll need to bring along for your smog and safety checks.

Keep all the paperwork the inspector provides you, as you’ll most likely need these documents when you apply for your rebuilt salvage title and registration.

Anti-Theft Inspection

Once your smog and safety inspections are complete, head to the Southwest Service Center for your anti-theft inspection. You’ll need to complete a Salvage Vehicle MPD Anti-Theft Inspection Form (Form P-1011).

Make sure you call the D.C. DMV at (202) 737-4404 to verify which documents and fees you’ll need to take to your anti-theft inspection.

At the end of your inspection, the inspector will give you paperwork to prove your vehicle passed—do not lose this!  You’ll need it to apply for your rebuilt title.

D.C. Rebuilt Title & Car Registration

Applying for a rebuilt salvage title and car registration is similar to applying for any other title and registration.

Be ready to provide your local D.C. DMV service center with:

  • A completed Certificate of Title/Temporary Registration and Tag Application (Form DMV-CTA-001).
  • Proof of identity.
  • The salvaged car title.
  • All paperwork to prove your car passed the required smog, emissions, and anti-theft inspections.
  • Payment for the applicable title and registration fees.

After the DMV processes your application, you’ll receive your rebuilt title and can legally drive the once-salvaged car again! If you need help applying for your rebuilt title, call the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles at (202) 737-4404.

DMV.ORG BBB Business Review