What is the difference between a junk title and a salvage title?

A cars title is a legal document showing the person or business who officially owns the vehicle. Most vehicles on the used market have a clean title, which means they have never be

What is the difference between a junk title and a salvage title?


A cars title is a legal document showing the person or business who officially owns the vehicle. Most vehicles on the used market have a clean title, which means they have never been declared a total loss by an insurance company. You might come across cars with rebuilt titles or salvage titles that have lower price tags, but why? Read on to learn the difference between rebuilt and salvage titles and get answers to questions about these types of car titles.

Laws surrounding rebuilt titles and salvage titles vary by state. Check with your states motor vehicle department for the regulations where you live.

  • What Is a Salvage Title?
  • What is a Rebuilt Title?
  • How Do Cars Get Salvage and Rebuilt Titles?
  • Will a Rebuilt Title Affect My Cars Value?
  • Can You Get Insurance with a Rebuilt or Salvage Title?
  • Should You Buy a Car with a Rebuilt Title?

What Is a Salvage Title?

A salvage title is a title for a car thats been in a major accident or damaged after a significant weather event like Hurricane Ian. Tropical storms and hurricanes bring heavy flooding. An insurance company may deem a flooded vehicle to be a total loss in the aftermath. However, the definition is not universal. States have different laws about what constitutes a salvage title. You can check your local states DMV website to learn more.

Since cars with salvage titles typically arent roadworthy, you should only consider buying one if youre a mechanic intending to rebuild it to pass a state inspection. Even then, consider the value proposition of rebuilding a car with a salvage title compared to buying a used car with a clean title. The cost of the repairs might be more than the car is worth.

What Is a Rebuilt Title?

Cars that previously had salvage titles receive rebuilt titles after they are repaired to roadworthy condition. Although the official title status is rebuilt, it does not necessarily mean that a mechanic rebuilt the car from the chassis up. For a vehicle to go from salvage to rebuilt, it needs to be inspected by the state and deemed fully functional and safe to drive.

A rebuilt title has considerable advantages over a salvage title. When you buy a used car with a rebuilt title, its ready to register, insure, and drive right away without much of a headache. That typically isnt the case with a salvage title. Its crucial to do an in-person inspection of the car before buying a vehicle, especially one with a rebuilt title.

How Do Cars Get Salvage and Rebuilt Titles?

A car gets a salvage title when an insurer determines the vehicle is a total loss. Insurers have different thresholds for what totaled means. Sometimes, a totaled car has no damage to the frame or engine. A vehicle with a salvage title is ineligible for license plates and cannot be driven on public roads.

When a car with a salvage title becomes roadworthy after necessary repairs, it can get a rebuilt title upon passing a state inspection. With a rebuilt title, you can register the car, put plates on it, and it becomes street legal again.

Will a Rebuilt Title Affect My Cars Value?

Yes, a car with a rebuilt title will always be worth less than the same model with a clean title. A vehicle with a clean title has never been in an accident severe enough to be deemed a total loss by an insurance company. Even if a car with a rebuilt title is repaired to the highest standard, it will always have a nasty accident in its past, bringing down its cash value.

If youre trying to sell a car with a rebuilt title, we regret to inform you that youll get less money than you would if it had a clean title. Potential buyers will likely have questions about the vehicles condition. Your transparency will bring better odds of attracting the right buyer and getting a relatively reasonable sale price.

Can You Get Insurance with a Rebuilt or Salvage Title?

Most insurance companies will insure a car with a rebuilt title, but you may not be able to get full coverage. If you have a clean driving record, there wont be much insurance cost difference between a car with a clean or rebuilt title. Try to get a quote from your insurance company before buying the car, and make sure they know it has a rebuilt title.

In most cases, you cannot get insurance on a car with a salvage title because its not legal to drive on public roads.

Should You Buy a Car with a Rebuilt Title?

  • It depends  Not all cars with rebuilt titles are created equal. If youre considering buying a car with a rebuilt title, obtain a vehicle history report and ask the seller plenty of questions about the cars past and the repair process.
  • Look for a transparent seller  If the seller can answer your questions satisfactorily, has a good knowledge of the cars past, and can provide photos of the car after the accident and before the repairs, then it could be a car worth buying. If the seller is dodgy, walk away.
  • Know the risks involved  Even when a seller is open and honest, dealing with a rebuilt title can be risky. There could still be an underlying issue caused by the accident that went unnoticed. If youre unwilling to take that risk, paying more for a similar car with a clean title is worth the extra money.
  • Obtain a professional inspection  When considering a car with a rebuilt title, it always helps to be mechanically inclined so you know what to look for when looking it over in person. If you dont know much about cars, consider a pre-purchase inspection before agreeing to buy any automobile, especially a vehicle with a salvage or rebuilt title.
  • Should You Buy Back Your Totaled Car?
  • Should You Buy a Car Thats Been in an Accident?
  • Vehicles With Salvage Titles: Following a Natural Disaster, Are They Worth It?

Editors Note: This article has been updated for accuracy since it was originally published.

3 COMMENTS

Peter Wright August 15, 2019 At 4:30 pmOn Salvage title vs Rebuilt in California based on my experience. Your write-up seems to be based more on opinion than fact and a simple disclaimer about differences in States does not excuse the author from spouting misinformation.Folks in CA who read your article will be misinformed. A rebuilt title is not typically assigned to a salvage title vehicle if ever. Words are important.In California a vehicle declared a loss by an insurance claim is typically sent to auction. The better losses are purchased by enterprising repair people and appropriate repairs are made. Then the CHP will issue a salvage certificate (Not title) only if they deem the vehicle roadworthy. Then the vehicle has to pass State safety tests. With these certificates (salvage and safety) the vehicle has to then pass an on site inspection at the DMV before it earns a salvage title(not certificate) from the DMV.The afore described is a one time process. Once the Title is issued with a salvage status it is bought, sold, insured, registered, etc. like any other vehicle. Same process applies to losses that are theft recoveries in good condition. The term salvage on the title at this point is no more than an historical footnote. Having owned several over the years I have never seen the salvage status have any affect on the integrity of the vehicle, though the buyer should perform the same due diligence as on any used vehicle.If anything a salvage status title is a green light to smart buyers as compared to a similar vehicle that was damaged, but never declared a loss by an insurance company, and is back on the road with a clean title status, without having to pass any of the tests that an insurance claim loss has to go through, at a much higher cost. Please do some fact checking and correct your article based on truth and fact.Reply

David O'Neill August 28, 2019 At 8:12 pm

From the drivers perspective then (after its repaired and inspected), is there no real differences besides insurance coverage then?Reply

John Phil August 8, 2022 At 8:24 pm

YoUr DeFiNiTiOnS DoEsNt MaTcH CaLiFoRniA. ThErEfoRe ItS wRoNg.Reply

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