Learn About Salvage Titles

A salvage title is only issued for vehicles that have suffered significant damage, and the damage can be from a variety of external factors, including fires, floods or theft. To obtain a salvage vehicle title, you will need to complete a salvage certificate application, which you can get from your local DMV office. Note that you cannot legally drive a car with a salvage DMV title on the road in any state. However, if you wish to keep the vehicle with a salvaged title, you may have it repaired to the point that it is safe to operate on roads and highways. The car will need to go through the steps of a salvage vehicle inspection, first, completed by a state official, before you can legally drive it, once again. The location and price of this inspection will vary, depending on your state of residence. Learn more about how to get a salvage title in the sections below.

What is a salvage certificate for seniors?

A salvage title, or a salvage certificate, is a paper title given to a car that has been deemed damaged beyond repair, and would be too costly to have fixed. A state may issue a salvage title if the vehicle was damaged via fire, flood, accident, by an act of vandalism or otherwise. Each state has its own legal definition of what a salvage vehicle is, and when to issue a salvage title. This means that a vehicle considered a salvage vehicle in one state may not qualify for a salvage vehicle title in another state.

While the definitions vary, the basics remain the same. A state will issue a salvage vehicle title if the vehicle:

  • Has a significant amount of damage to it.
  • Has significant repair costs that would render the vehicle too expensive to fix.

If a vehicle was previously issued a salvage title in another state prior to arriving in the state you purchased it in, you may still need to obtain a salvage title for your current state. However, this will be determined by whether the vehicle still meets the current state’s salvage vehicle requirements and if the state currently honors salvage titles from other states. Learn more about salvage vehicle titles in our free, downloadable guide.

How to Get a Salvage Title for Seniors

To apply for a salvage certificate, you will need to complete a salvage certificate application. Depending on where you live, your DMV may have different options on how to do this. You may be able to complete the application and mail it in, or you may have to go to the DMV in person to obtain a salvage certificate application. You will also need to pay a fee to complete the application process. Fees will vary depending on your state or your DMV office. Before beginning the salvage title application process, contact your local DMV to find out the best way to apply, and how it much it will cost. Download our informative guide to read more about DMV fees.

Some states may require you to start the process of how to obtain a salvage title within a certain number of days of the event that caused you, or your insurance company, to label the vehicle a total loss.

If the damaged vehicle is insured, then the insurance company may repossess the vehicle and apply for the salvage vehicle title. If the car is not insured, then, as the current owner, you must apply for a salvage title. Even if you do not plan to keep the car, you will need the salvage title in order to sell the car to someone else.

What is an insured salvage car?

If your car has been significantly damaged or destroyed for any reason, you may be able to apply for a salvage certificate. You will need to have your insurance company determine if the cost of repairing the vehicle will be covered. If it is decided against repairing, the auto company will deem the vehicle a “total loss.” Once your insurance company has done this, you will need to assign the vehicle’s title to the insurance company, and a representative will complete the process of applying for a salvage title.

What is an uninsured salvage car?

If a car with a salvage title is uninsured, then you, as the owner, must apply for the salvage title, yourself. You will need to obtain an application for a salvage certificate from your local DMV office. Depending on your DMV, you may be able to complete the application online, or you may need to go in-person and request one. As applications for a salvage certificate are generally short, you will then be able to fill it out and submit it before you leave the DMV.

Learn About the Salvage Title Inspection

If you rebuild a car with a salvage title that you wish to continue using, you will need to take the vehicle in for a Salvage Vehicle Inspection (this name may vary depending on the state in which you live). Different states may have different rules for completing this specific inspection. For instance, Ohio requires that you have the car inspected by the Ohio State Highway Patrol; while Alabama enforces that the Department of Revenue’s Automobile Inspection Section performs the task.

You will most likely need to pay a fee to have the vehicle inspected. This fee may vary from state to state, and even from DMV to DMV. This inspection does not test the safety of the vehicle, nor run an emissions check, but rather ensures that no stolen parts were used to rebuild it. Note that without the proper inspection, a rebuilt vehicle cannot receive proper titling and new vehicle registration for reuse on roads and highways.

For more information on the salvage title inspection, browse our comprehensive guide.