Has anyone bought a used car with a salvage title?

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Posted 12/26/2012 by Luvnlifelady in NSBR Board

Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 289,166
December 2006
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Posted: 12/26/2012 8:36:36 AM
My van is about on it's last leg again. Taking it the transmission shop one more time (put a new one in about 2 years ago but it is still under warranty). It's been back twice recently already and the fix seems to be only temporary.

I was thinking of getting an inexpensive used car that will eventually be DD's (she turns 16 in March). It would buy me some time to figure out what I want to do long-term for my car and time to shop for a used one.

I found a Honda Civic that is in the right price range, but has a salvage title. The guy says he bought it like that 5 years ago so doesn't know why it has it. DH and I know nothing about cars but we would have it checked out by an independent mechanic.

Would you still take a look at the car or pass on it completely?

Ms. GreenGenes

PeaNut 140,500
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Posted: 12/26/2012 8:42:06 AM
Our minivan has a salvage title.

The guy we bought it from has a small business at his home, where he gets his cars from auctions (with salvage titles), fixes them and re-sells them. My Dad, my siblings, and a few family friends have all bought from him without incident. Two relatives are mechanics by trade and verrrry picky about what they buy, and both bought their latest cars from him and have been pleased.

My opinion is that it can be done; just have the car checked out verrrry thoroughly. My only other caution is that here where I live, banks will not give you a loan for one, so if you're thinking that way, that may not happen.

~ Tracey
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Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 289,166
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Posted: 12/26/2012 8:54:22 AM
Thanks for all the info. That's a good point about the loan. I think we could pull it off without one, but it would've been nice to have a loan for it just the same. I will keep that in mind.

blue tulip

PeaNut 390,473
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Posted: 12/26/2012 9:05:48 AM
often you can't get full coverage insurance on a salvaged vehicle, because at one point it was already totalled and paid off by an insurance company. so if the purchase price is more than you could bear to lose in an accident, you may want to rethink. we never have full coverage on our vehicles, so it wouldn't be a concern for us. just check it out very carefully!


PeaNut 562,203
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Posted: 12/26/2012 9:10:15 AM
I agree with not putting more into it than you could afford to lose, since you will likely be unable to have full coverage insurance. I would just add that you should look up the carfax to find out why it was salvaged.


PeaNut 91,974
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Posted: 12/26/2012 9:15:51 AM
I recently purchased my GD a Honda with a salvage title. It's in excellent condition. We were able to get full coverage. We didn't need a loan so don't have any knowledge about that.

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PeaNut 104,457
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Posted: 12/26/2012 9:20:08 AM
We bought a Geo Prizm with 300 miles on it that had a salvage title. We put over 250,000 miles on that car. It was the best vehicle we ever owned. At that time, we had no problem with financing or full coverage insurance. We recently purchased a used car though and the bank said no salvage title.


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Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 274,935
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Posted: 12/26/2012 9:45:10 AM
I've gotten rid of 2 cars and both now have salvaged titles. My little Mercedes convertible was flooded completely and after having the engine replaced developed electrical problems and had a mold issue. Since it was a company lease car, we did get that papers back that it had been sold as salvage. The amount it sold for certainly didn't sound like a salvage! I just hope someone checked it out and didn't get caught up in a shiny new car with 7500 miles on it. The insurance company said mold was growing in the seat cushions as well.

I agree with others, check it out as best you can and don't put into it more than you can afford to walk away from.


PeaNut 514,794
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Posted: 12/26/2012 9:51:17 AM
Our DD's car has a salvage title. We were able to get full coverage on it. We saw the car fax and it showed the prior owner had it for 4 years and before that there was a quick flip in ownership. They had no problems with it, and so far (knock on wood) we have not.



PeaNut 135,862
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Posted: 12/26/2012 10:54:13 AM
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PeaNut 135,862
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Posted: 12/26/2012 10:54:46 AM
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Old Dogs are Best!

PeaNut 92,987
June 2003
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Posted: 12/26/2012 11:02:39 AM
When I was a teen, my Dad would do these ONENE scale car projects, in other words, buy a dirt cheap salvaged and completely rebuild it over the winter with a couple of neighbor buddies.

My first car that I learned to drive in was once submerged in Lake Erie after having been driven on winter ice that cracked (people got out but it was in the water a few months) Dad and buddies completely rebuilt it till it was better than new.

BUT... the title still reflected that it was a salvaged vehicle. Dad kept that one for a few years, where the others he would sell in the Spring.

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Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 268,201
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Posted: 12/26/2012 11:07:39 AM
Most of our cars have been salvaged cars. We have a couple of good friends that make their living buying salvaged cars from auctions, repairing the damaged body-work and selling them.

We got a minivan when our kids were little. It had 15,000 miles on it and was 2yrs old. Apparently, the original owner as driving home from a hardware store with a couple gallons of paint on the back seat. They got hit in the back and the paint shot all over the interior of the car - so the insurance company totaled it.

Our friend purchased the car, fixed up the back corner that had been damaged, and cleaned the paint off the interior. The only negative was that he also had to replace one side of the back seat as it as soaked in paint. The replacement seat was brown as opposed to grey. He offered to order a new, matching one for us and add it to the cost. We didn't care about the color of the upholster enough to want to pay the additional expense.

That van is still running great after 10+yrs and close to 170,000 ADDITIONAL miles. We've changed a pump??? on it 2yrs ago and then just tires/battery.

We would never buy a salvaged car if the damage/wrecking had happened to the motor as there is too much there affected. You could end up with a drip, drip, drip of engine-related repairs over time. However, minor body stuff repaired by good body mechanics - no problem at all for us.

Bottom line, don't ignore a car that is "salvage", but do your homework. It's odd to me the guy wouldn't know WHY it as salvage if he's had the car for 5 yrs. On the other hand, if it's still running 5yrs after being "salvaged" it should have potential odd kinks worked out of it, right?


PeaNut 227,373
October 2005
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Posted: 12/26/2012 3:33:44 PM
I've purchased a couple of salvage title cars, and they've been fine. I didn't expect to get more than a few years out of them. One had to get an alignment every 9 -12 months, but it was so much cheaper than equivalent cars, and a great car in other ways, that it wasn't a problem for us.

But I would recommend taking it to a mechanic to have it checked before and/or an auto body shop. Auto body shops are pretty good at identifying how extensive the damage was.


PeaNut 279,621
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Posted: 12/26/2012 3:50:01 PM
We bought my 1999 4 runner 11 years ago, with a salvaged title. I've replaced the clutch twice, and had just a general tune-up, but that's it! I have put 100,000 more miles on it, and now DH drives it back and forth to wotk, with no end in sight! We were able to get both a loan and insurance without a problem, but did have it completely checked out!


PeaNut 21,316
September 2001
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Posted: 12/26/2012 4:23:05 PM
I have stayed away from salvage titles. It can be difficult to know why a car was salvaged, and I didn't want the risk of a car with safety/integrity issues or that had been in a flood. Not all damage is reported to Carfax.

The last time we were looking for a car, I also steered clear from any car with a title that was not in the seller's name. A lot of people here buy the cars at auction for resell and do not transfer the title over to their names before reselling. This usually means that the seller has not paid taxes on the vehicle, and the state can come after the NEW owner for errant taxes.

Out of state title? Money owed on a loan? That can also present difficulty.

There is a lot of weirdness out there on places like Craig's List. When we were shopping, I wouldn't even contact someone about a car unless there was a phone number or I could see my state's license plate in the photo. I would ask if the title was free and clear and in the seller's name. Then I would ask if any warning lights were on (if I went to look at a car, I also made sure that the lights were working--we saw one that was disconnected and another that had been PAINTED over).

It can be really difficult to find a decent used car at a great price, but it happens. Good luck!

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PeaNut 212,771
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Posted: 12/26/2012 5:36:46 PM
We bought our Ford Focus 5 years ago with a salvage title and it now has 200,000 miles on it. It's been a GREAT car.

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Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 465,849
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Posted: 12/26/2012 5:50:50 PM
It can be an issue if the car has body damage or isn't safe for whatever reason ie having a bent frame. As others said you need to find out why the car has a salvaged title. My dad had a Toyota truck that he was hit in from behind. It just needed a new bumper, but the insurance company totaled it because the damage was over the legal limit in CA for them to fix it. So my dad decided to get a salvaged title. The car still ran but had cosmetic issues and he went to pick a part and found a new bumper popped it on a viola!

However, he did have to make an appointment to go down to the DMV and fill out some paperwork and pay the fee for the title. He also had to get the vehicle inspected by a shop that was DMV approved and pay for that as well. So keep these things in mind. We didn't have full coverage on the car insurance wise. He drove it for about 2 years after that and then we sold it to CarMax last summer. Yes CarMax surprisingly will buy vehicles with a salvaged title. HTH!

The DMV's website for CA has a whole bunch of info about it:
DMV CA Salvaged Title



PeaNut 39,286
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Posted: 12/26/2012 6:19:41 PM
We bought one for our 16 year-old and it has full-coverage insurance. We had it checked out by our mechanic as suggested in an earlier post. It's just a much better car than we might have otherwise been able to get and she loves it!
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PeaNut 534,508
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Posted: 12/26/2012 7:04:51 PM
My husband's truck. Great deal on an awesome vehicle.
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PeaNut 415,025
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Posted: 12/26/2012 7:11:05 PM
Yep. And I have never regretted it for a second. We got it for a great price, and it has been very reliable and an overall great car.


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PeaNut 587,750
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Posted: 5/20/2013 1:39:11 PM
I bought salvage titled Ford Mustang recently - take a look. I also bought salvage BMW 3 years ago, and the biggest and probably the only problem I had was finding somebody that would buy it when I decided to sell it, even though it was much cheaper than the same car with clean title. I also think it makes sense to buy a salvage car only if it's saving you at least 70% off the retail value of the car.

froggy one

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Posted: 5/20/2013 1:54:05 PM
My husband has rebuilt cars from the bottom up. We bought a cheap car that wasn't a salvage but we found out that the electrical system had apparently been underwater. We had it for a few years but were always fixing something electrical. I would suggest having a mechanic of your choice checking it out first. Make sure that they put it on a lift because if it was wrecked you don't want something wrong with the frame.

Years ago my son wrecked his dad's truck and the insurance company totalled it. DH bought it back from them and fixed it up good as new.



PeaNut 13,584
April 2001
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Posted: 5/20/2013 2:17:01 PM
We just bought our DD a 2011 Mazda 3, 18,000 miles with a prior salvage title. And we have full coverage on it through State Farm. It was salvaged because a dump truck backed into it and damaged the driver side door and back passenger door....because the car's new retail value was less than $20k, the double door replacement was more than the prior insurance companies "fixable" amount, therefore they salvaged it...lucky for us! Great little car, no mechanical issues and exactly what she wanted...a win all the way around.

As others have suggested, do have it fully checked out, and personally we would stay away from any "flood" issues...way too much can go wrong electronically in cars today and often end up being a hefty price tag to repair.

Good Luck!


Working Mom to "3 Sugar Bugs", Madeline (15), Piper (10) and Grey (5)

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