It’s often said that if it seems to be too good to be true it often is. However, if you have ever searched used car classifieds like an old 49er, digging, sifting and panning for that shining prize you’ve likely run into a few cars that seem to be fools gold. Low mileage, great features, and a shockingly good price are paired with an important phrase, “Salvage”. Most people get nervous around that kind of phrase so how can you be sure about who avoided a dud and who missed out on an incredible deal. What even is a salvage title and is it the same across the entire nation? Does it mean that a car is unsafe or something else? If you’re interested in a car with a salvage title should you forget about it or dig a little deeper?
What is it Exactly?
A salvage title is ultimately a declaration that the vehicle in question was at one point in its history damaged beyond what an insurance company decided the car was worth at the time of the incident. It’s important to consider the state in which the vehicle was classified as salvage because the amount of damage needed to classify a vehicle as such can vary drastically. For instance, in Florida, a vehicle is only salvaged after being damaged to at minimum 80% of the value before the accident but in Iowa, the vehicle only needs to be damaged to 50%.
What Does it Mean?
It means that depending on where it was deemed a salvage vehicle it may either be nearly worthless or very capable of being repaired to a safe and driveable state. If the damage was done to the front of the vehicle only then there is a good chance that it can be repaired to the condition it was in before the accident. The danger of a salvage vehicle is when damage is done to a part of the vehicle that can be replaced or repaired properly. If the roof is damaged the doors could be permanently ill-fitting. If the frame is damaged the alignment could be incorrect and cause the car to drive poorly no matter what repairs are done.
How Can You Be Sure You Don’t Buy a Dud?
Buying any car requires good research and a pre-purchase inspection but when it comes to a salvage vehicle the value of those tools becomes that much more important. A high-quality VIN check will give you a reliable source of information about where the salvage title was given to a vehicle and what kind of damage happened. Typically you’ll also get information on where repairs were completed. Those tidbits of info can help you determine exactly how reliable the vehicle is likely to be. Finally, a pre-purchase inspection is vital to ensuring that there aren’t major issues that haven’t been properly reported. It can also reassure you that repairs were completed properly or save you from buying a vehicle where those repairs were not repaired correctly.