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Here's What to Know About Salvage Title Cars


Not long ago, a consumer wrote to us about his niece, who had recently purchased a salvage title car. She bought the car off of eBay, and the listing clearly stated that it would pass emissions tests in any state plus Canada. But once she had the car, she found that there were numerous problems she had not been aware of. The thoughtful consumer wanted to know if there was anything his niece could do about this apparent scam.

How to Buy a Used Car

This man’s niece bought a car on eBay without the opportunity to have it inspected by a trusted mechanic. That’s a big red flag in the TrustDALE playbook. Any time you purchase a vehicle that is not new, make sure you get it inspected by a mechanic you trust. Many states have “lemon laws” that provide some protection for a buyer if they are misled about a used vehicle, but that doesn’t apply to salvage title cars.

Gambling On a Salvage Title Car

A car with a salvage title has been in an accident or sustained some other serious damage that is more expensive to fix than the car is worth. So not long ago, that salvage title car you are driving around was a mess of smashed metal and glass, or a completely dead shell with interior parts that don’t work. After the insurance company determined that fixing the car was not worth the cost, someone bought that car to resell it for a profit. To do that, the resellers have to make the car seem sellable without making all of the repairs the insurance company thought were necessary.

Buying a salvage title vehicle is a big gamble. With a history of serious damage, there is no way to know the current condition of the vehicle without a professional opinion. Once you know the extent of the damage, you can make an informed decision about your next vehicle purchase.

Also beware that many insurance companies will not ensure a salvage title car (after all, an insurance company already totaled it), so make sure you have a plan for insurance before you buy the car.

Is There Any Recourse for a Salvage Title Car?

Unfortunately, due to their messy history, salvage title cars are typically sold as-is. The buyer accepts all responsibility for any damage and agrees to purchase the vehicle in its current condition, including even serious defects. So if you purchased a salvage title car and didn’t have it inspected before you purchased it, there is little to do when the car starts to break down.