When you’re looking for a new car, you might be hesitant to purchase a vehicle with a salvage title. But despite their less-than-positive reputation, salvage-titled cars aren’t all bad — they’re typically priced very affordably and frequently have low-mileage engines, too.

If you’re tempted by a steal of a deal on a salvage-titled automobile, just know that being cautious about your purchase will serve you well. While you can certainly get a great deal on these types of vehicles, they can carry some risks you should know about. Not all salvage vehicles are risky, but it’s smart to be prepared nonetheless.

Here’s what you should know if you’re considering buying a vehicle with a salvage title.

Unknown Repair Job 

Salvage-titled cars were once damaged to the point where the repair would cost more than the book value of the car itself. And you’ll usually see a salvage-titled car after it has been repaired without knowing who fixed it.

Without this key information, it can be hard to know whether a legitimate and trustworthy person previously owned or repaired the car. People can easily fix cars inexpensively and then sell the car for more money to make a quick and easy profit.

If you’re interested in buying one of these vehicles, take it to a reputable auto shop for a pre-purchase inspection. The pros will alert you to any red flags the vehicle might have, so you know what you’re getting yourself into if you do purchase the automobile.

Not All Salvage Repairs Are Major Fixes

Keep in mind that insurance companies — not auto repair or body shops — determine whether a vehicle is considered totaled.

Sometimes, a “totaled” vehicle may not have been damaged severely — it may simply have been damaged to the point that the insurer was unwilling to pay for repairs. This is especially true for older vehicles that may still be in relatively good shape aside from a large dent or even paint damage.

As vehicles age, their book value naturally declines, so if fixing a large dent will cost the insurer thousands of dollars, it doesn’t make sense for them to cover those repairs. In such a case, the insurer will deem the vehicle “totaled,” issue a salvage title for it, and cut the owner a check for the book value of the vehicle.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the vehicle is in “bad” shape — it just means the cost of fixing that big dent was more than the insurance company was willing to pay.

Safety Risks

Many vehicles are equipped with intricate safety features and technology designed to protect the driver and passengers. Depending on the extent of damage, a totaled vehicle can be extremely difficult to repair in a way that makes it as safe and secure as it once was.

However, that’s typically only true for vehicles with advanced safety systems or features. Most older cars don’t have many advanced safety features (if any), and base models typically don’t have higher-end features. If you’re looking at an older or base-model vehicle, you may not have to worry about repairs to safety systems at all.

But what if you’re looking at purchasing a salvage vehicle that does have advanced safety features? Again, get a pre-purchase inspection from a reputable auto repair shop. Any honest dealer should allow you to take the vehicle to an independent shop for a thorough inspection for your own peace of mind.

Don't buy the vehicle if a dealer doesn’t allow you to do that. 

Faulty Mileage Display

When car shopping, one of the most important factors a buyer may look at is a car’s mileage. When a car’s mileage is lower, it typically increases the car’s value and price.

Unfortunately, people who repair and resell salvage-titled cars can swap the mileage odometer with one that displays a lower number. This can lead you to purchase a car with a much shorter lifespan than you initially thought.

Fortunately, a simple way to protect yourself from this issue is to request a comprehensive vehicle report from the dealer. Or, enter the vehicle’s VIN number into an online database like CARFAX and look up the information yourself.

When you get a report, you should be able to see what the last recorded mileage for the vehicle was before it was issued a salvage title. If the numbers don’t line up, you’ll know the dealer or repair shop tampered with the odometer.

If you suspect odometer rollback fraud, of course, don’t buy the vehicle. You should also report the dealer to law enforcement. For more information, check out the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s blog on protecting yourself from odometer fraud.

Untrustworthy Used Parts

When unethical buyers fix a damaged vehicle, they may use untested, aftermarket, used, or faulty car parts to perform the repair.

But even when a body shop or auto repair shop fixes a salvage vehicle with used auto parts, that doesn’t necessarily mean the vehicle is bad or the parts are in poor condition. Reputable salvage yards (like Ace Auto Parts in St. Paul) sell quality used and discount car parts that come warrantied. Parts don’t come warranted unless the seller is confident they’ll work according to their design.

If you ever need to fix a vehicle on a budget, you too can purchase used auto parts from a salvage yard for a fraction of the cost of buying new. Just because something is used doesn’t mean it’s poor quality. Check out our top tips for finding used parts at a salvage yard.

Want to protect yourself from buying a low-quality vehicle? Get a pre-purchase inspection and check out the vehicle’s CARFAX report. Doing your research is the best thing you can do to avoid getting duped into buying a lemon.

Can Be Pricier to Insure

Vehicles with salvage titles are typically worth 20%-40% less than the Blue Book value of the same model, year, and trim with a clean title. But while you’ll save money upfront on the purchase, you’ll probably pay more to insure your new (used) ride.

Insurance companies have a hard time determining a salvage car’s lifespan or how well the car will hold up in an accident. And because of that, they often charge higher coverage premiums than a standard car.

When purchasing a new car, you should thoroughly understand the car’s history and status. Knowing where the vehicle’s parts came from and the car’s previous buyers can help you determine whether a car is worth purchasing.

When it comes to salvage-titled cars, it’s best to look past the appealing low price and focus on the overall longevity of the car’s life and reliability.

Sell Your Junker to Ace Auto Parts in St. Paul!

Do you have a totaled car you’d like to get rid of? Are you looking for a good deal on a used car or truck that may have a salvage title? Then get in touch with our team at Ace Auto Parts!

We buy junkers throughout the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area, and can tow your car or truck from your location. We also sell used vehicles and an extensive selection of used and discount auto parts and have proudly served Twin Cities drivers for nearly 100 years.

Call us today at 651-717-4299 or contact us online with any questions or concerns, and we’ll get in touch to discuss your needs!