Applying for a salvage title is an important step that must be completed on time regardless of your state of residence. As a general rule, state DMVs will only issue a car salvage title if a vehicle meets the definition of a salvage classification in the corresponding state. In most cases, vehicles will qualify for a salvage document if they have sustained damages that meet or exceed their actual value before sustaining any damages.

In addition to a salvage certificate, the majority of U.S. states also manufacture junk titles for unrepairable motor vehicles. While a salvage title will allow a car owner to relicense a wrecked motor vehicle once the necessary repairs are conducted, junk certificates permanently disqualify the vehicle from receiving a new title and registration. On the other hand, car owners who proceed with repairing their vehicles will have to submit the cars to an inspection procedure before applying for a rebuilt title with their state DMV.

What is a salvage title?

A salvage car title is a unique type of certificate that serves as proof of ownership for vehicles that cannot be safely and legally operated on public roads. Thus, the main purpose of a vehicle salvage certificate is to document damaged or wrecked cars within the state and protect vehicle buyers and sellers. For instance, most states have laws that require vehicle sellers to reveal the salvage brand when offering their cars to potential buyers.

Once a salvage title is issued, the corresponding brand will permanently remain part of the motor vehicle’s history. Depending on the source of the damage, a state DMV may also attach additional brands to the title certificate. For instance, when issuing salvage certificates, the Iowa Motor Vehicle Division will also assign an additional designation, such as a flood, theft, fire or vandalism-damaged vehicle.

Salvage Title Eligibility Requirements

Salvage title cars have to meet a state DMV’s definition of a salvage vehicle in order to obtain these types of credentials. Overall, this definition may vary to a certain degree from state to state. For example, to obtain a salvage title certificate in Georgia, you must own a vehicle that has been paid off by an auto insurance company as a total loss, or that has been damaged to the extent that two or more component parts must be replaced.

Most states assign a specific threshold of damages in order for a vehicle to qualify for a salvage car title. Generally, this threshold of damages is expressed in the form of a percentage of the vehicle value that must be reached. For instance, New York car owners can obtain a salvage certificate if they own a vehicle with damages exceeding 74 percent of the actual value of the car without any damages. Moreover, the vehicle must also be newer than nine model years. Due to the minor differences in the salvage title laws in different U.S. states, vehicle owners are encouraged to contact their state DMVs to learn whether or not a car qualifies as salvage.

How to Get a Salvage Title

Car owners wondering how to get a salvage title must note that, in most cases, this process can be completed by simply submitting a paper application form at a local DMV office. Depending on the regulations of individual motor vehicle departments, applicants may be able to submit their request by mail as well. The following list includes the standard steps to get a salvage title as the original vehicle owner:

  1. Declare your vehicle salvage or have it declared by your insurer.
  2. Fill out the corresponding salvage title application form.
  3. Collect the existing vehicle title and any lien release forms, if applicable.
  4. Arrange payment for the applicable titling fee.
  5. Deliver the above items in person through a DMV office or mail them to the corresponding address.

On the other hand, when applying for a salvage title, insurance companies may be required to complete different steps. For example, they will first have to obtain the original title from the car owner. After receiving a request for a salvage title, state DMVs will manufacture the salvage certificate and mail it to the applicant’s address.

Salvage Car Inspections

When issuing salvage titles, DMVs do not require vehicles to undergo an inspection procedure. Generally, a declaration of a salvage vehicle is sufficient in such cases. However, if a car owner repairs a salvage vehicle and chooses to apply for a rebuilt title, the car will have to pass an examination through an official inspection station. The purpose of this salvage vehicle inspection is to verify the roadworthiness of the rebuilt vehicle and check the origin of the parts used to rebuild it. If the examiner determines that illegal and/or stolen parts were used during the reconstruction process, the vehicle will be disqualified from receiving a new title.

Therefore, to initiate the application process for a rebuilt salvage title, applicants will first have to schedule a visit to a local inspecting site and transport or drive their reconstructed vehicle. During the inspection, vehicle owners will be required to present several items, such as:

  • The initial salvage title and a form of identification
  • An application form for a rebuilt title and/or inspection
  • Payment for the examination and titling fees
  • Bills of sale, receipts or other ownership documents for the parts used to rebuild the vehicle
  • Photographs of the wrecked motor vehicle

After passing the vehicle inspection, car owners will receive an inspection certificate of completion, which must be submitted during most application procedures for a rebuilt title.

Salvage Title Fees

One of the last steps when applying for a salvage title is paying the applicable titling fees. While most DMVs impose the same titling fees that apply to standard title certificates, certain states will require vehicle owners to pay lower titling costs. For instance, the Illinois Secretary of State (SOS) imposes a $4 salvage title fee, which is much lower than the standard $95 titling cost.

On the other hand, when applying for a restored salvage title, vehicle owners will have to pay additional fees. First, they will have to arrange payment for the inspection fee. Then, they will have to repay the titling fee and arrange payment for the registration costs, which will vary depending on factors such as the weight and type of the motor vehicle.

Last updated on Tuesday, March 10 2020.