Buying a Salvage Title Car a Bad Idea? Why It Might Be Worth The Money and Effort to Restore It

Last Updated on June 1, 2021

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Considering buying a salvage title car? It might be worth the money and effort to restore it, especially if you’re looking for a new hobby to take some time off your hands. There are pros and cons to restoring a salvage title car, as there are with any DIY project. Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly.

Pros of Restoring a Salvage Title Car

What typically catches the attention of salvage title car buyers (or ANY car buyers, for that matter) are low prices. And when it comes to salvage title cars, a discount is guaranteed. Since salvaged cars are damaged to the point where it would cost more in labor to fix the vehicle than it is worth, they’re often sold for 20 to 40 percent less than a car with a clear title would be. For those who know their way around cars, the purchase could absolutely be worth it. Sometimes you can find an older salvaged car with a high discount that only costs $1,000 to fix in parts. As long as you’re willing to put in the work, the money is without a doubt worth it.

Another perk of purchasing a salvaged car is that they’re often a gold mine for car parts. A salvaged car, or branded car as most dealerships like to call them, earns its nickname for various reasons. The vehicle could have been in a car crash. It could have been stolen or even suffered water damage. Depending on the accident, a salvaged car might have the parts you’ve been looking for to finish up a different automobile project.

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The obvious pro of buying a salvage car is that it’s extremely cheap! Photo credit: goory /

Cons of Restoring a Salvage Title Car

Many people consider buying a damaged car to be a bad idea. When it comes to looking for a salvaged car, take the time to truly evaluate the vehicle. While there may not be any dents or visible damage, there may certainly be issues under the hood or with previous fixes. In 2009, a case went viral where a body shop owner faked airbag installations in a teenager’s car, and the teen died in a crash. The person selling you a salvaged car may have switched the odometer on the dashboard to convince buyers that the car has low mileage. These are things that a buyer cannot usually determine before purchasing a car. So it’s important to know what the risks could be before offering your money.

As Matt DeLorenzo, managing editor at Kelley Blue Book, says, “There are no warranties or guarantees on the condition and no legal recourse if the seller has disclosed the salvage title.”

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The biggest con of buying a salvage car? It can be extremely damaged – so much so it may be dangerous to drive. Photo credit: GagliardiPhotography /

How to Insure a Salvage Title Car

If you’re still interested in taking on the fixer-upper project, you will have to be prepared to insure the vehicle, as well. Once you’ve fixed the vehicle to the best of your ability, the next step would be to have the car inspected. A salvaged car is not legally allowed on the road, so a clean inspection is necessary in order for you to obtain a Rebuilt Title from the DMV. Finding an insurance company willing to insure a rebuilt car may be difficult, but it is not impossible.

What insurance companies are most worried about is providing comprehensive or collision coverage for a vehicle that was once damaged beyond its fair market value. This means that while a large company will be willing to write you a plan, the premiums will most likely be high, and the payout will be low. However, the good news is that no insurance company should have a problem writing you a liability policy. So if you have the money and the time, rebuilding a salvaged car might be the perfect project for you.

Specific steps on how to insure a salvaged car vary across America. So consult your state’s DMV website for more details.